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Kids get hands-on with diverse projects at camp
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Cameron Robertson (standing) and Ian Betton work on a robot recently at Henry County Public Schools’ Explore Camp. The boys built and programmed the robot to go forward, backward and make turns. Cameron is a rising sixth-grader at Laurel Park Elementary, and Ian is a rising fourth-grader at Axton Elementary. (Contributed photos)
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Monday, July 14, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Zack Millett, a rising seventh-grader at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School, wants to be an artist, illustrator or author when he grows up. This week, he is using some of his artistic skills at Henry County Public Schools’ award-winning Explore Camp.

“Your mind is filled with tons of imagination,” said Zack as he drew a warrior or knight wearing such things as a wartorn cape and breast plate and carrying a sword.

Zack is taking Origami and the Art of Asia for his class at Explore Camp. Origami is the Japanese art of folding squares of paper into representational shapes.

For his origami projects, Zack made a fox and bird.

Zack said one of the reasons he took the class was the challenge of learning origami. He thought it was going to be hard, but it wasn’t as hard as he thought, and he enjoyed it, he said.

This is the fourth year Zack has attended Explore Camp, and he takes the art class each year. The content of the class changes yearly.

The 190 rising fourth- through eighth-graders from the county schools who are enrolled in Explore Camp are taking one each of nine classes, said camp director Janet Lewis, the middle school curriculum specialist for HCPS.

According to a camp brochure, the other classes are That’s Show Biz! (developing a stage presence through activities involving singing, dancing, acting and learning about behind-the-scenes careers); Photography Basics; Games! Games! Games! (including Twister, bowling, Putt-Putt, Frisbee and more); Explore Golf (learning and developing the golf game early); Green Thumb (flower arranging, potting plants, conducting soil tests and building a small woodworking project); What’s Cooking (assembling meals or foods); Lego Robotics (programming, building and manipulating robots); and Probing with STEM (various activities involving science, technology, engineering and math).

In Explore Camp, students “solve real-world challenges through participation and hands-on experiments,” a camp brochure says.

“It’s camp. It’s meant to be fun, active and engaging. It’s not school,” Lewis said.

Career exploration and field trips also are part of Explore Camp, she said.

Stacy Moody, teacher of Origami and the Art of Asia, said, in addition to origami, her students made a Chinese scroll by dropping black ink with an eyedropper and blowing the ink with a straw to make short and long lines to look like parts of a tree, then using a permanent marker to make flowers.

Students also learned to write their names and favorite words in Chinese characters. They were introduced to anime, a Japanese style of animation that uses vibrant characters, colorful images and action-filled plots. Moody said she had the students focus on drawing big eyes and expressions on characters’ faces.

Madeline Reynolds, a rising fifth-grader at John Redd Smith Elementary, said for her origami projects, she folded paper into such shapes as a strawberry shortcake, rocket, turtle and ice cream, among others. It took between five and 10 steps to make each item.

In Joan Tucker and Rebekah Kirks’ Probing with STEM class, students have been working with wind generators; doing an experiment with solar ovens, conductors and insulators; examining earthworms microscopically and exploring whether they prefer hot or cold surfaces; building a balloon-powered car and learning about laws of motion; and exploring lunar phases.

“We learned how voltage works,” said Rachel Hairston of the wind energy project. She is a rising fifth-grader at Rich Acres Elementary.

Hunter Foley, a rising seventh-grader at F-C Middle, said he learned about equal and opposite reaction by building and launching a balloon-powered car. The direction of the air was the opposite direction the car moved.

Hunter said he also enjoyed another project, in which he examined and identified bone fragments from owl pellets (regurgitations), looking at a chart of skeletons of such things as a mole, shrew, vole and bird. Hunter wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up.

In Nathan Reeves’ Lego Robotics class, students have been getting basic introduction to robotics construction and programming, he said.

“They love it. When they start out, a lot don’t think they can do it. They’re skeptical. (But shortly) they realize they can do it and have fun from that point,” Reeves said.

Cameron Robertson said he and partner Ian Betton built and programmed a robot that can go forward, backward and make turns. The robot has sensors that keep it from bumping into walls and other things, Cameron said,

“I’m really having fun,” Cameron said, and Ian agreed.

Cameron is a rising sixth-grader at Laurel Park Elementary. Ian is a rising fourth-grader at Axton Elementary.

In Donna Kaczor and Champ Hardie’s Green Thumb class on Tuesday, students made solar ovens out of simple materials and baked cheese-covered taco chips or S’mores.

Jenna Adams, a rising sixth-grader at F-C Middle, said: “I think it’s a great way to show how solar energy is used. We’re learning how heat from the sun melts chocolate” for S’mores.

In Laura Jones’ What’s Cooking? class, students were making icing and decorating cupcakes after visiting Uptown Sweets.

Lewis and others said other planned field trips included, depending on the class, trips to the Black Box Theatre, Virginia Museum of Natural History, Studio 107, a mini par and driving range, and the fab lab.

The camp — which was free to HCPS students on a first-come, first-served basis — began Monday and ends today


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