Students from all Zumbro Education District schools got together at Byron High School recently to take part in the ZED Summer Academy.
The Summer Academy is a one-week, half-day opportunity for gifted and talented students who have completed grades 3-6. Students are recommended by staff from their local districts in order to attend.
This year’s session included 360 students from Blooming Prairie, Byron, Hayfield, Kasson-Mantorville, Pine Island, Stewartville and Triton, said Becky Remmele, special projects coordinator for the district.
There were two sessions each morning and students could choose two classes. Classes covered a wide variety of topics and areas of interest including Adventures in Cartooning, Beginner Machine Sewing, Drones, Exploring Forensic Science, Gardening Fun, Healthy Snacks, History Buff’s Guide to the Civil War, Hogwarts for Muggles, Lego Robotics, Myth Busting, Natural Disasters and Weather and STEM Activity Challenges. In all there were 34 classes to choose from.
David Sklenicka and his wife, Heather, were leading a class in learning about Dungeons and Dragons. He teaches physics at Stewartville High School, and she teaches chemistry at RCTC.
Most of the students in the first session, he said, were newcomers to the game while the second session had older students who already knew the basics.
Character design is an integral part of the game, he said, and creativity is the key. Many actors and writers have said the game helps them become more creative.
Historically, Sklenicka said, Dungeons and Dragons was played mostly “by nerdy boys in the basement.” But now the appeal has broadened and the ZED group included almost equal numbers of boys and girls. The game is based on “Lord of the Rings” and is played around a table with up to seven players and a Dungeon Master at each table. The Sklenicka’s acted as dungeon masters for the two tables of players.
Down the hall from the Dungeon and Dragons players another group of students was attempting to bust a few myths. In the course of the week they wanted to know can you create your own compass (yes), can you pull iron out of cereal (yes), can you walk a straight line while blindfolded (no) and can you fold a sheet of paper in half more than eight times (yes, but it’s not easy).
Drones were occupying the attention of students in a class conducted by Stewartville STEAM teacher Kelly Schrandt. The drones used in the class, he explained, were not radio controlled but rather it was up to the students to use the computer to program what the drones to fly. In addition to helping the students learn about programming, he said, it also helped them learn to work together.
Students interested in healthy snacks were learning new recipes with the help of Kasson-Mantorville’s Megan Degrood. By the time the week was over they had made sesame potato chips, tuxedo olives, apple quesadillas, fruit smoothies, pretzel melts and more.
This was the 15th year for the popular program, Remmele said. The program alternates each year between the participating ZED schools.