From the fan favorite of Minecraft and cooking to learning how to build a tiny house and making a self-driving car go straight, Ector County Independent School District’s gifted and talented program, Scholars in Progress, is offering nine different summer camps through this week.
The two-week Camp SIP is held yearly. The theme is INNOV8 and it is being held at Milam Elementary School with 108 students from first grade to those going into fifth, plus 20 junior counselors, Director of Advanced Academic Services Omega Loera said.
All participants get a chance to take Minecraft classes and youngsters also spend part of the day swimming at Woodson Family Aquatic Center.
In “A Little Bit of Technology,” one group of students was trying to make a self-driving car drive straight. (And it did).
“It’s using color coding and technology. The blue is power; the green is input-output and we’re trying to make it go straight so that’s what the colors are for,” said Rebecca Castillo, 10, who is going into fifth grade at Burnet Elementary School in the fall.
Castillo said the class is really fun. Her brother has some larger robotics equipment. She tried it once and thought it was entertaining.
She’s also taking FASHIONATE, which is fashion plus innovation, a news release said. Students were creating a look for a teddy bear, a fashion portfolio and thematic sets. Plans also were to develop a video and webpage to advertise the new look.
Castillo said they made tutus for the teddy bears and they will be donating the bears to Angel House.
Eva Brower, a 10-year-old junior counselor going into sixth grade at Nimitz Middle School, said this is her first year helping out at the camp.
“We’re playing Minecraft. We have this special thing called the ‘teacher mode’ and what we do is we help kids fill the buildings in faster, so they can build the decorations faster than just building a building,” Brower said.
Avery Glenn, 9, who is going into fifth grade at LBJ Elementary School, and Lainey Wimberly, 8, who is going into third grade at the same school, said the Minecraft class has been really fun. It’s the education version of the game.
“It’s been really fun for us,” Wimberley said. “We get to build a lot of the world we’re currently in. We are making houses and inventions.”
In her other class, “Once Upon a Tiny House,” they are building tiny houses out of foam board and cardboard.
Barbara Digby, a GT program at teacher at Ireland Elementary, said students in the tiny house class are given $100 each for their project.
“When they do something honorable, or respectful, or as a scholar does, they get $10,” Digby said.
If they act inappropriately, they have to pay back $10, Digby said.
Each item needed for the tiny houses, which are 160 square feet, is listed with its price on a whiteboard. Digby has built toilets for them and is showing them how to build vanities.
Through the process, they are learning measuring and budgeting, among other skills.
“They have done a beautiful job and they’re very creative,” Digby said. “They’re designing to their favorite book, movie, television or cartoon character,” so they have to infer what their client would want.
Lauren Knox, 9, who is going into fourth grade at Reagan Magnet Elementary School, said the tiny house course is “really interesting.”
“I kind of wanted to do it because I wanted to try something new,” Knox said.
Jordan Costilla, 9, is going into fourth grade at Ireland.
“It’s pretty neat because I wasn’t expecting her to make all the furniture. It helps me with math because I had to make budgeting sheet,” Costilla said.
Eliseo Gomez, a GT program teacher at Reagan, is leading the “Inventor’s Workshop” class.
On Monday, students took on mechanical engineering and trying their hand at building a mini hydraulic system, he said.
The course also looks at the difference between architecture and engineering, Gomez said. Architecture covers the more artistic side and engineering is more of the science and math.
“Considering in our area we do have an engineering program with the university and we have some facilities being built, it’s something they need to be aware of that it is an option to them,” Gomez said. “There’s so much they can do, so many topics on engineering that they can pick from.”
Gomez has been with ECISD for almost 17 years and teaching at Camp SIP for eight. It’s the students that keep him coming back. He added that he enjoys seeing the way the youngsters think and what they have a passion for.
Loera said the teachers develop their own lesson plans.
“We decide at the end of this camp what we’re going to call our camp for next year. It takes a whole year for the teachers to develop those lessons …,” she said.
When planning his classes, Gomez said he thinks about what’s going to interest the students and make them want to return to camp.
“Engineering has stood out for me this year. It’s something big in our area. Kids need to be exposed to that,” he added.