As a child, Kim Eubanks spent her summers sitting by the pool day after day feeling bored.
As a teacher, she wants to give pupils something she never had: an opportunity to learn that is fascinating and fun. At Howard County's G/T Summer Institutes for Talent Development, which Eubanks directs, kids can create puzzles, solve mysteries and delve into tall tales.
"I'm the child who would have loved to have ... learned about fingerprinting in grade two or Web design in grade four," said Eubanks, a gifted and talented resource teacher at the Cradlerock School, home of the Summer Institutes. "I really think it keeps the kids' minds interested and engaged and challenged during the summer."
The goal of the summer program, which runs through July 23, is to accelerate achievement, extending what incoming second- through eighth-graders learn during the school year through creative, hands-on classes. Potential teachers must write up a proposal on the course they hope to teach, including how it ties into county the curriculum goals.
Eubanks views the Institutes as a means of "giving the students what I never had ... it's really a fabulous opportunity for kids who want to be challenged over the summer."
In only its second season, attendance has doubled from about 60 last summer to nearly 120 children this year.
Pupils do not have to be enrolled in gifted classes at their schools or take a test to participate. "It's a talent development opportunity," Eubanks said.
The only requirement is a teacher nomination form, "showing that they have an interest, a passion and a talent in the area that they're taking the course," she said. "What we're hoping is that [for] students that may not have been ready for enrichment opportunities in their home schools that this can help prepare them."
To tap into kids' interests, the nine course offerings have enticing titles like Mystery Mania, Mathemagical Marvels and Multimedia Minds.
"They're high-level, rigorous courses that tie to and extend the basic curriculum being taught in the classroom," Eubanks said.
One high-interest class was I SPY: More than Meets the Eye. Fourth- and fifth-graders created their own hidden picture pages with rhyming clues, based on the popular I SPY series of children's books.
Pupils researched I SPY author Jean Marzollo, learned about poetry and studied pattern in order to design their pages.
"It was very interesting to learn about the I SPY books and how they're made," said Jake Kotler, 9, who will enter the fourth grade at Pointers Run Elementary in the fall. "We got to collect things from all over. If you were interested in one thing you could pick it" as a theme for the page.
Jake said he enjoyed hiding things, such as field day ribbons and bobblehead dolls, in his sports-themed display.
Another course, Sailing Through Literature, was designed for young book lovers. After discovering that many of the second- and third-graders taking the class were not familiar with American tall tales, teacher Tom Brzezinski read stories about Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed and others with them.
The American history element of the stories also fits into the fifth-grade curriculum. "This way, they've got some good content under their belt before they get into fifth grade," said Brzezinski, who is media specialist at Clemens Crossing Elementary.
Eubanks credits parents for the growth of the program. "They're saying how much their [children] enjoyed, how much they learned. The Mystery Mania class - which is comparable to CSI for second-graders - that class filled up in three weeks because everybody heard about it from last year."
Second- and third-graders have to solve a mystery about a missing bear using clue charts, logic puzzles and fingerprinting.
Mason Rogers, 7, a third-grader at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary, said he has enjoyed everything about the class.
"There was a culprit and we had to figure out who it was," he said. "We had a crime scene and we had to search through all these clues," he said.
"He came home all excited that he was doing forensic science ... and they tied in the literature," said his mother, Kathy Rogers. "The fact that they go to a class in the summer and they're excited about it that says a lot."
Eubanks said she loves the children's zeal for discovery.
"It is so exciting for me to watch them jumping out of the cars with such curiosity and enthusiasm," she said. "And not wanting to leave because they're so excited about what they're learning."
For information, contact Kim Eubanks at 410-313-7601.