As Philip Ward spelled out "ANTS ARE ATTACKING" for his 6-year-old grandson, he spread his hands out to reveal rough, calloused palms and permanently grease-stained fingers.
"I never even touched a key before this with these hands," said Mr. Ward, 70, a retired auto mechanic who was helping Christopher write a story on the computer with pictures -- a story about an army of giant ants.
"This is the first time I've ever gotten this close to a computer," he said. "I never had to deal with them before in my line of work. This is so educational."
Mr. Ward and his two grandsons were among 100 children and adults at an eight-day Family Computer Camp at Halethorpe Elementary School.
Unlike most computer camps, which are strictly for kids, this one asked youngsters to bring an adult to learn about computers free of charge.
With a $2,000 allocation from the Board of Education, principal Don Gourley decided to create a fun program that would bridge the computer generation gap and teach children and their parents or grandparents how to work with programs that make things such as banners, posters, cards and address labels.
"I think a lot of people, regardless of age, are very reticent of doing anything with computers," Mr. Gourley said.
"You know it's inevitable in anything. In this day and age, you have to be somewhat computer literate. With this camp, they see that it's not as forbidding as it seems to use computers," he said.
Besides learning how to use the computers, participants are also field-testing programs that the school might purchase in the future, Mr. Gourley said.
The camp's three teachers -- Sandra Neuhauser, Carol Baker and Earlyn Stance -- are also preparing lesson plans for the new school year with computers in mind, he said.
"The three teachers have come back to me and told me how amazed they were about everything they've learned so far," he ** said.
"It's just a great program. If we have the funding for it and we can work it out, we'd love to do this again next year," he added.
That's what Arbutus resident Alverta Bartlett was hoping. She's no longer afraid of computers.
"My son wanted me to get on his [computer], but I was afraid to use it because I didn't want to ruin it. He has his business stuff on it," said Ms. Bartlett, who agreed to break the ice by accompanying her two grandsons, Scott and Raymond, to the camp.
"This is the first time I've ever touched a computer," she said, as she worked on a "Halethorpe" banner.
She proudly showed off address labels she made for herself and banners she made for her son's business.
"But my grandsons are really good at this," she said.
Like many of the children who attended the camp, Ms. Bartlett's grandsons were already familiar with computers.
Seven-year-old Scott was busy spelling "Baltimore Orioles" for his banner while 9-year-old Raymond was writing a story.
BMany of the adults said they felt it was an exciting and educating experience.
That was especially true for Mr. Ward.
When he started, he'd never touched a computer. Now he's thinking about buying one.
"I learned how to type, print, make banners, and I even did some arithmetic one day," Mr. Ward said. "I am amazed. I've seen people do amazing things on computers.
"I'm thinking of getting one for myself for writing letters, paying the bills and things like that," he said. "It's great. This program is great. I've learned a lot from these kids."