At Summer Learning Camp, children are honing their academic skills and tackling a new craft.
For an hour every afternoon, the 15 campers top a long day of mental and physical exercises at Carrolltowne Elementary with a quilting bee.
"These children come to camp for fun, socialization and to close the gap so they don't lose skills over the summer," said teacher Jana Ringold. "They also are excited by this new experience that they are all working on together."
The 6- to 10-year-olds, all newcomers to quilting, are stitching together coverlets with a personal touch. Each camper has signed and traced a hand print and made it into a quilt patch.
"Everybody had a turn to sew," said Bryan S. Buckingham, 10. "You can see all our hands on the quilts."
And, generosity makes these stitches stronger.
"We are taking the quilts to the hospital to kids that really need blankets," said Bryan.
"We all like making them, because they are going to the hospital," said Kristen Riddle, 9.
"I like giving to the poor children," said Speedy Kidd, 9. "They probably don't have any blankets."
Elaine Ermer, pediatric nurse at Carroll County General Hospital, said the hospital can definitely use the children's donations.
"We have children, whose parents don't have a lot," she said. "It will be nice to send them home with something that is not disposable, something they can have for a long time."
Bryan outlined his hand print in glowing-orange fabric paint and signed his name with a flourish. Then, he sewed the patch onto the quilt backing.
"The children at the hospital can see our names beside our handprints," said Kristen.
The campers added layers of batting between patches and backing. "Batting makes the blankets warmer," said Kristen.
The class chose a pink print background for one quilt and cartoon characters on tiny trains for the other.
"This is a wonderful project with a lot of sharing and cooperation," said Maizie Bell, teaching assistant and also a first-time quilter. "The children are all coming together as a team."
The quilt project came from Carolyn Ursone, another teaching assistant. Ms. Ursone has organized neighborhood quilting bees keep children occupied during the summer.
"I wasn't going to do a neighborhood project this summer, but the children came knocking at my door," said Ms. Ursone.
Ms. Ringold said she couldn't imagine a better way to interest the class, of different grade and skill levels, in a joint project.
"This is an experience all the children can work on together," said Ms. Ringold.
Parents could quilt a patch, too. Michelle Cassell came to watch her 8-year-old son, Keith, and ended up stitching.
"I had never done quilting but I figured if these guys can do it, I need to learn it too," said Ms. Cassell. "This project really reinforces skills that the children can't always get in the classroom."
Her son enjoyed the project so much, she said, "It made him excited about coming to camp."
The hands-on project has also helped the children improve math and reading skills, said their teacher.
"We tie everything we have worked on during the day together with the quilt time," said Ms. Ringold.
Ms. Bell guided Jenna Turco, 8, through stitches "down a touch and come back up."
"I have sewed crafts before, but this is easier and more fun," said Jenna, who chose hot pink and deep purple for her patch.
Bryan cautioned that small stitches should be made "so babies can't get their nails caught in the thread."
Leah Cunningham, 6, has occasionally dropped a stitch or lost a thread. "I have my own sewing kit with 12 needles in case one gets lost," she said.
An experienced sewer at 10, Danny Nusbaum said he prefers quilting to pillow-making.
"I made a pillow, but this is much easier," he said. "Here the needle goes right through all the layers."
Everyone helped pen -- with felt-tip markers -- "The Quilt the Campers Made," a diary of the project complete with artwork and commentary.
"The book shows how we made the quilts from the first day," said Ms. Ringold.
The children plan to show off the quilts and read their book to parents Friday, the last day of the month-long camp.
"These children have really accomplished something," said Ms. Ursone. "When we started no one knew how to sew. Now, everyone is sewing and really energized."
Although quilting takes patience and is slow going, Speedy said he is taken with it.
"I like motorcycles and race cars, but now I like quilting, too," he said. "I think I could make another one on my own."