Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Middle-schoolers sample careers at summer camp

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J. Adam Fenster⁄The Gazette
Hiroshi Kino, 12, studies a scaled-down human skull during a presentation by Thomas S. Wootton High School teacher Sanford Herzon during CSI Wootton, one of the classes offered at the weeklong Plan for the Future Summer Camp in June.
Campers raced cars they had designed and constructed through an upstairs hallway of Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville. Two floors below, others sang and danced to the music of ‘‘Chicago”, while down the hall, student investigators were busy at a crime scene. All this activity and much more was part of a camp program for middle-schoolers.

During the week of June 23, only two weeks after the end of the school year, 145 middle-schoolers from across the county were in the classrooms and halls of Wootton to explore future career possibilities at Plan for the Future Summer Camp, run by the Montgomery County Public Schools Division of Career and Technology Education.

The racecar drivers were in a class called ‘‘How’d They Do That,” which was designed to explore the physics of engineering.

Priscilla Seah, 11, a rising sixth-grader at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Germantown, showed off the car she made from foam board and powered by air from a balloon mounted on top.

‘‘I wanted to make a car and see if it would actually work,” Priscilla said. ‘‘It worked pretty good.”

Ben Feshbach, 11, a rising sixth-grader at Robert Frost Middle School in Rockville, was excited about ‘‘the really cool stuff” he was making and the science he was learning.

‘‘I learned about physics and Newton’s Law and we are going to make a boomerang later in the week,” he said.

Michael Thompson, a physics teacher at Wootton during the school year, worked with the campers, encouraging them to take practice runs with their cars.

‘‘The idea is that it is their summertime and [classes] should be educational but fun,” he said. ‘‘We aren’t doing paper and pencil work. We are having fun with balloons and glue guns. They are bright about physics anyway.”

Fun and learning were apparent in the classroom of Sanford Herzon, another Wootton teacher working at the camp. His campers had been out in the football field making footprints, casting them and then inspecting the results.

‘‘When you get it cleaned off, you should see the print of the shoes you were wearing,” Herzon said, as the campers cleaned dirt off the casts with small brushes.

Herzon and his group were learning ways scientists look for clues at crime scenes to solve criminal cases in a crime scene investigation class, CSI Wootton.

‘‘I love mysteries and finding new ways to find the cause of death,” said Hannah Hwong, 12, a rising seventh-grader at Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring.

On the first day of camp, Herzon gave them a death scenario and they had to put clues together to figure out how the person died and who caused the death, she said.

All of the summer camp offerings were hands-on in some way.

John Anderson, 11, a rising seventh-grader at Takoma Park Middle School, was typical of many of the campers in choosing classes with an eye to the future. Anderson’s choices were the CSI and Patterns in Engineering classes.

‘‘I want to be an industrial chemist or something along those lines,” he said. ‘‘This helps me explore the fields of science.”

Everyone seemed enthusiastic about being in school.

‘‘It’s not school, it’s camp, that’s why,” said Regina Sakaria, camp co-coordinator.

This is the sixth year the school system has conducted the one-week camp, which was also offered at Seneca Valley High School in Germantown and at Thomas Edison High School for Technology in Silver Spring. Altogether, about 250 students attended the camps, selecting from 38 class offerings.

‘‘It exposes some middle school students to opportunities available in high school and gives real hands-on experience of what they would really be doing,” Sakaria said. Besides that, ‘‘the kids have a lot of fun,” she said.