Camp gives kids a jump on science

Animals: A seminar at the zoo gives gifted incoming sixth-graders a chance to prepare their brains for school.

August 12, 1999|By Melody Holmes | Melody Holmes,SUN STAFF

Clad in the shorts and tank tops that are staples in their summer wardrobes, small groups of young children could be seen at various stations scattered about the grounds of the Baltimore Zoo yesterday.

They were 10- and 11-year-olds, all headed for sixth grade this fall. The students -- part of the zoo's summer ingenuity camp -- have all been observed to be gifted in math and science. The day-long camp was designed to tap into and challenge their intellects, getting their brains warmed up for the school year ahead.

The camp featured a number of educational stations to which the children rotated, covering such topics as "What Makes a Bog a Bog?," "Talon Talk" and "The Physics of Flight." At these stations, students learned lessons in both zoology and ecology.

The camp relies on student participation, which Morgan Moore, 25, a volunteer at the zoo, says is the best way for students to retain the information. "Hands-on seems to embed it [each lesson] in your memory. It gives you more of an awareness about where you live."

The students -- who were chosen through an application process that included a short essay -- appeared to already have a great deal embedded in their memories.

"The new facts that I know will probably help me, but most of the facts they told me, I already know," said 10-year-old Christopher Lagree of Baltimore. Christopher says that he will likely return next summer for a similar three-week program at the zoo.

Ubong Obot, 10, of Baltimore, already knew a few things too. Of his lesson on birds' flight, he said, "I knew that their feathers couldn't be ruffled, or they wouldn't be able to fly good."

Marci Nacke, a raptor-care specialist at the zoo, was easily a show-stealer with her falcons, Yoda and Skyflyer (who lost one of her wings after being hit by a car the first time she flew). Nacke taught the students about how birds of prey live, how they behave and how they affect the environment. The students' questions ranged from issues of flight to specifics on mating and reproduction. Nacke says that she enjoys providing such lessons because it's important to spark the students' interest in nature. "Just because you live in the city doesn't mean animals don't exist," she says.

August Matzko Sangster, 11, of Baltimore, says that he will retain what he's learned from the ingenuity camp for school this fall because, "if we have projects involving flight, or birds, or animals, then it should be useful." He is unsure of what he wants to be when he grows up, but as for the possibility of being a zoo employee, August says, "I don't know. Maybe."

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