Photo by Heather Middleton
By Kathy Jefcoats
With an eye toward teaching teenagers valuable career skills, Clayton State University is offering two, free, week-long camps focusing on the entertainment industry, and the burgeoning field of video gaming.
Funded through the Atlanta Regional Commission's Georgia Entertainment Media Work Ready Region, the camps are designed to support the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math initiative. Continuing Education Executive Director Janet Winkler said the university is excited to be on the cutting edge of the future careers of the teens, ages 14 to 18.
"We really want to make students aware of the huge career opportunities in Atlanta," said Winkler. "It is a huge industry, nationally, but when filmmakers come into Georgia from California, they say they have to bring their own staff and crew, because there is no skilled workforce here."
Guest speakers from various facets of the industry are expected to share with students the information they need to succeed in that particular field. Last week's camp taught students the basics of video gaming. It's not far-fetched to imagine any one of them developing his or her own game, Winkler said.
"We learned that 25 percent of all new games are developed by kids under 18," she said. "All these skills are relevant to them being successful in their careers down the road."
The students were also exposed to the university's gaming lab, and got a tour of the campus.
During the week, students created a character for a game design. This week, a different group of students are learning how to design and build a stop-motion character, film a short stop-motion scene, edit the film using computer software, and present the film.
Winkler said there has been only one complaint, so far, about the camps.
"We asked if there was anything they would change about the camps," she said. "They all said they wish it would last all summer."
The "fun" component of the camp lasts just a week, but the more studious aspect -- math -- continues into the school year. "You have to know math to know technology and computer skills," said Winkler. "So, the students work on math three hours a day. The students and parents sign a contract promising that the student will study math during the school year using the Internet-based program, 'I Learn.'"
Using "I Learn," Winkler said, any student, no matter the skill level, can achieve success in math. "It teaches to the gaps, and determines what they don't know," she said. "Math is taught in building blocks. If you don't learn it all along the way, sooner or later, you will hit a wall. That's when students lose interest."
Winkler said instructors can tell in real time who is studying, what they are studying and how much time they are putting into developing math skills.
"They are continually being assessed to what they have learned, and that helps them build confidence, which is so important," she said. "It is going to be fascinating to watch this year to see how the program keeps them engaged."
Camp math instructor, Joe Dumas, who also teaches at Lee Middle School in Coweta County, has seen the successes firsthand. "In our school two years ago, 80 percent of our students passed the CRCT," he said. "Of the 20 percent who didn't, 70 percent passed this year. One hundred hours in the program will bring them up to the level they need to be. If you don't put in the time, you can't pass."
In the fall, the students will be invited back to free Saturday sessions, and they have access to college instructors.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for them to succeed in math," she said. "It also gives them exposure to college, which may help them decide to attend college after high school."
At least one student said he is eager to return. "This was the most awesome and epic class I have ever taken," said Amarious Jones. "It showed me my perfect career, and I will be there for the Saturday school."