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This isn't your typical summer school class

By Greg Gelpi

President George W. Bush, plastic straws and electronic force fields: ways to protect people in the future, according to local students.

Clayton County middle school students applied lessons learned during their summer enrichment program to ways to protect people.

The middle school enrichment is a week-long program of hands on team problem solving activities. Designing protective gear for eggs, middle schoolers rolled a billiards ball down a chute at their egg.

Some bundled their egg in an interwoven clump of supplies, while one group created a sled with their supplies.

With straws underneath as skis and using the tag board to help it slide, the straws directed the pool ball into a makeshift bumper propelling the egg contraption forward.

"We decided that the paper was a smooth surface so we thought it could slide," Ashley Woodruff, one of the students, said.

Woodruff, an Adamson Middle student, helped design the structure and said she enjoys the enrichment program.

"It's a challenge," she said. "It keeps you awake. It keeps you on the edge of your seat."

The students collected points for how far they could push their eggs as well as how well they protected them.

Almost 30 students volunteered to participate in the class, which teaches them book knowledge as well how to learn and work as a team.

Armed with two plastic straws, a plastic sandwich bag, five toothpicks, a small piece of clay, a label, a rubber band, and a piece of tag board, five groups developed their own methods of completing the task.

With only 18 minutes to analyze the problem, develop a strategy and implement it, Christal Sangkhamphong chopped the two straws into pieces and tacked them around the egg in a wheel pattern.

"A lot of times in regular school students aren't given a chance for creative problem solving," Linda Andrews, the school system's coordinator of gifted education, said.

Margaret Rezek and Barbara Lewis, both gifted teachers, lead the enrichment program of brainteasers, activities and projects designed for interactive learning without grades.

"It's exciting just to see these kids try new things," Rezek said. "They are afraid to try things in school because they don't want to take a chance with a grade. The best part is watching kids come in here who don't know each other come together."

Presented with a problem and the rules for solving the problem, the students must bring their heads together to conquer the challenge as one team.

"They learn no compromise means no good solution," Rezek said.

Roberts Middle School is the only site for the enrichment program. For the first time, the Clayton County school system is also offering enrichment programs for elementary school students at Arnold Elementary, Brown Elementary and King Elementary.