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It May Be Summer, But Learning Continues in Belton ISD

Student in "Science Experiments" course.

An unexpected, positive outcome has come from launching Belton ISD’s annual GT summer camp in a virtual format this year due to COVID-19 — it’s made the camp accessible to more students.

“With camp being virtual this year, students can work around their parents' work schedule or other activities they are involved in,” said Amanda Curylo, the camp’s coordinator. “There is flexibility within each course. Two different Zoom times are offered daily, but the Zoom sessions are also recorded and uploaded into Google Classroom for students to view at a later time if they have a scheduling conflict.”

Curylo said 241 students are enrolled in the camp which runs June 1-4 and June 8-11. This is up from 162 students last year.

For Jerri Gauntt’s children — Jane, an eighth-grader at Belton Middle School, and John, a ninth-grader at Belton High School — this flexibility meant the family could participate in the camp even though they had a trip scheduled during the course.

“We’re missing today,” Gauntt said Tuesday, “but we can watch videos and catch up before tomorrow’s lessons. It’s been really good. The kids were accustomed to the format because of distance learning.” 

The camp, open to GT students in grades 3-8, offers a choice of 26 courses that incorporate STEM, service projects and book studies.

“During our planning process we were reminded that our teachers have many interests and passions inside and outside of the classroom that they do not always get to share with students,” Curylo said. “We gave teachers the freedom to submit their ideas for courses they would like to teach and we loved every one of them.”

Jane Gauntt decided on “The Home Scientist” while John Gauntt picked “Design Thinking.” 

“Jane is really interested in science and math. She’s hoping to blow something up,” Gauntt said. “John is a tinkerer, always building or creating things like fishing lures or a new step so I can reach a shelf. ‘Design Thinking’ seemed to be a good fit for him.”

Both Gauntt kids are also taking “Embroidery 101” with the hopes of using their newfound skills to enter a project in the Bell County Youth Fair. Plus, “it’s a lifelong skill they can use,” their mom said.

“The camp is just a fun, tactile, interesting way to apply some of the concepts they’re already familiar with and learn new things,” Gauntt said. “Even if it’s virtual, we’ll see some old friends and get to know some new friends. And, for at least eight days this summer, we won’t be bored!”

Campers and teachers, Curylo said, are documenting their learning on social media platforms with #BISDvirtualGT2020. See more photos at https://bit.ly/2Ms7MBh