Ruth Schoonover learned that snails eat chalk as a source of calcium for their shells, and Kristine Harrison built a miniature car with Lego pieces.
Ruth and Kristine are among 80 girls attending Bryn Mawr School's Summertech program.
For 10 years, Bryn Mawr, the private, all-female school in north Baltimore, has conducted the computer and science program for fifth- to eighth-graders. The four-week program ends today.
Most of the students come from city schools. Caren Cranston, Summertech's director, said the program aims to introduce the girls to science and computers, areas typically identified with boys.
"We take them away from the social pressures of a co-ed school and provide them with a time to learn, practice and work," she said.
Students are asked to pay $25 to participate. Bryn Mawr receives the bulk of the program's funding from foundations, corporations and individual donors.
The program's staff works with guidance counselors from middle schools across the city to find girls who are independent learners, are interested in science and are highly motivated.
Bryn Mawr is in the 100 block of W. Melrose Ave., in the Orchards neighborhood in north Baltimore. Many of the students come from households with modest incomes.
Ruth, a 12-year-old from Roland Park Middle School, said she prefers the hands-on learning that Summertech offers.
"Science in school isn't as interesting," she said.
As participants in the Snails course, one of nine courses offered in the program, Ruth and her classmates received pet snails so they could learn about the creatures' habitat, food and characteristics.
"The students use an inquiry approach to science," said Madeleine Keller, the Snails instructor.
Kristine, 13, said her work in the Lego course is fun, but frustrating.
"We take a box of gears, rubber bands, wires, and Lego pieces to make a turtle," said the Northeast Middle School student.
The turtle is a model car constructed with Lego blocks, gears and motors that the girls control via computer.