NEW WINDSOR - Like other grandparents, Evelyn Barnes sat on the sidelines, watching eighth-graders run laps in the field behind New Windsor Middle School.
She wasn't watching a sporting event, but a gym class. And by sitting there, ever so attentive in a lawn chair, Barnes was sending a clear message -- one as clear as the blue autumn sky -- to her granddaughter, Jennifer Barnes.
"Being here, I think sends a message that I care and that I'm very interested in what she's doing and learning in school," said Barnes, a new-accounts representative at Westminster Bank and Trust Co. in New Windsor. "She's important to me."
Barnes was one of about three dozen or so grandparents and other relatives who visited the middle school last week in celebration of American Education Week.
This year's theme, "Educating Everyone . . . Takes Everyone," made parents, grandparents, community and business leaders a common sight at schools across the county. Other schools marked the week with a variety of activities, ranging from special programs at parent-teacher meetings to kindergarten students donning Pilgrim and Indian costumes.
At New Windsor Middle School, though, the emphasis was clearly on grandparent and grandchild.
"We try to get the parents involved," said assistant principal Lanny Hinkle. "We have them follow students during the day and let them see some of the new trends in education."
Some of the new trends, such as hands-on science programs, caught the fancy of Joe and Betty Alvarez of Silver Spring, Montgomery County, who spent the day with granddaughter Becky Alvarez, a Taylorsville sixth-grader.
"I learned something," said Betty, after participating in an exercise in her granddaughter's science class. "I learned you can stretch a cord after dipping it in water and soap."
But it wasn't necessarily the new trends that impressed the Alvarez couple.
"This school gives you the feeling that children are here to learn," Betty noted. "Teachers here are interested in the kids. The school may not have lush rugs like a lot of new schools, but it's got what it's supposed to have."
Paul and Mary Grue of Timonium, who came to see their grandson Timmy Grue, a sixth-grader from Westminster, found the school to be lot more informal than what they remembered from their own school days.
"We used to have to march down the hall and then stand in the classroom until we were told to sit down," recalled Mary, who attended a parochial school. "This is much more relaxed."
Like others, the Grues followed their grandchild's daily schedule. For the Grues and Timmy, that included long division in a math class and a discussion of writer O. Henry's "A Service of Love" in a language-arts class.
For many, perhaps, the day fell into the pages of an O. Henry story.
Many grandparents sacrificed something -- taking a day off from work or traveling far (one set of grandparents came from Garrett County) -- to be there.
While the grandchildren may not have sacrificed anything, the love and devotion so common in O. Henry stories was evident in students like fifth-grader Donald Grieco, who held and then kissed the hands of his grandmother, Joyce Grieco of Chevy Chase in Montgomery County.
"It's great having them here," said Danny, also referring to the presence of his aunt, Annabelle Ferchak of Lanham. "I can't wait to show them math."