School system offers enrichment camp during winter break

CONYERS - While most Rockdale County students were relaxing at home or vacationing during their Winter Break, more than 300 students attended classes.

The school system offered a free Enrichment Camp from 9 a.m. until noon every day last week at the Rockdale Career Academy for students in second through eighth grades.

Rockdale County Public Schools began offering Enrichment Camps in the summer. This past week's was the third camp, and plans are to offer it during every intersession break in the winter, fall and summer.

"It's been wonderful," said Dianne Swann, the elementary Enrichment Camp director. "The collaboration that we're able to do with the career tech programs has been fabulous."

Craig Dowling, assistant superintendent for instruction at RCPS, said in a presentation to the Rockdale Board of Education that the school system sent 940 invitations to eligible students in second through fifth grade and 705 to students in middle schools.

Eligible students include those "who demonstrated high achievement during the first semester, students in grade two who scored a 3 or higher on the first semester report cards (and) students in grades three through eight who achieved Principal's List or A/B Honor Roll with Distinction for the first semester," according to Dowling's presentation.

The school system received more than 480 applications to the camp - between 45 and 87 per grade level. Dowling said that 321 students were selected in a lottery drawing to take 15 classes.

At camp, students took two 90-minute classes. Swann said the students do not receive class credit from the Enrichment Camp classes.

The classes offered for students in grades two and three were Little D's Nutrition Expedition, The ABC's of Writing Your Own Book and Journey into the Universe. Students in grades four and five took Art Across the Curriculum, Mix It Up with Science and Wildlife Exploration.

Sixth-graders took Creating Music, A Week with the Artists and Algebraic Adventures, and seventh- and eighth-grade students had the option to take Mad Scientists Only Allowed, Podcasting 101, Getting in Gear, Legal Eagles, What are They Thinking? and Lights, Camera, Action!

"There's a little bit of everything," said Katherine Williams, instructional technology coordinator. "(The classes) are all hands-on - that's how they were designed."

In Algebraic Adventures, for example, students planned and built model houses, as well as made blueprints on the computer. In the Creating Music class, students played a variety of instruments, including bongos, xylophone, glockenspiel and cabassa.

Technology-driven courses were also offered at Enrichment Camp, such as Podcasting 101 and Lights, Camera, Action!, during which they create a newscast.

"We're recording our voices on a computer and talking about what we like to do in real life," said eighth-grade student Angelina Wiley on Thursday about Podcasting 101. "I like the teachers here - they are very supportive and have a lot of good ideas."

In Katy King's A Week with the Artists, students studied a different artist every day and imitated the art by drawing and painting their own pictures.

In Marneda Ivey's class, The ABC's of Writing Your Own Book, students created story and pop-up books.

Third-grader Jordan O'Rear said she liked that class because, "Sometimes when I'm by myself, I write my own stories on the computer."

Fifteen teachers and four high school student interns helped run the camp. Swann said having the camp at RCA offered the opportunity to provide more hands-on instruction, classes to more students, but the size of the camp is based on the number of teachers available and the funds approved in the year's budget.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.