Even though 400 years separate Shakespeare and Marvel superheroes, Nebraskan middle school students brought the two together at Central Community College-Hastings.
“A Marvelous Literary and Cinematic Journey” was one of three classes during the Scholars Academy at Central, held last Sunday till Thursday this week. The program is for gifted and high ability seventh- to ninth-graders from all around Nebraska.
The forty-one campers this year spent four nights on campus and focused on one of the classes all week.
Campers in the literary class watched Marvel movies to analyze, create and inspire screenplays. The campers then compared Marvel movies to Shakespeare plays, looking at hero and villain monologues.
“We could never make Marvel academic,” said Wyatt Tate, a ninth-grade student at Hastings Middle School, referencing to his school.
In the prototype design and 3-D printing class, campers worked on electrical equipment and built Bluetooth speaker, personalized with a 3D printed panel they designed. They also flew drones and programed robots.
Jay Schneider, an eight-grader from Lincoln, said he took the class because he wants to work in aerospace. He thinks by the time he is old enough to work in that job 3D printing will be an important part of that industry.
In the ecology class, campers worked in the field and lab, taking samples of insects, soil and water from Hastings Lake.
Olivia Loetterle, the resident assistant director, has been helping at the Scholars Academy for 6 years. Loetterle, who is also an elementary teacher, said she keeps coming back to help the campers get the most out of the program.
“Coming back as a teacher and seeing these kids is inspiring because they are the future,” Loetterle said.
Elizabeth Beauchamp, a middle school student from York, said she enjoys the Scholars Academy because of the challenge and unique approach to literature.
“They (her school) don't really challenge us,” she said.
Schneider, said he has learned just as much from his gifted and high ability peers as he has from his classes.
“I get to learn new things from them,” he said.
In order to be eligible for the Scholars Academy, a camper must be in a gifted program at school, score in the 95th percentile or above on a standardized test or get a letter of nomination from a school.
Co-diretor Constance Malloy said the campers are doing college level work.
The Scholars Academy's goal is to give special focus to kids that are gifted and high ability learners, according to Malloy and Susan Oliver, co-director of the program.
“I don't know that they have the funding or the staff to be able to focus on these kids. They've got the whole range of kids to take care of. Here, we're just meeting the needs of this particular group,” Malloy said.
But while the academics were the reason many campers came to the camp, many return year-to-year for the camaraderie. Oliver and Malloy said the campers sometimes feel ostracized at their regular school.
“One of the questions that I think I overheard Steven (a camp resident assistant) ask was, 'is it hard to be a gifted kid in your school' and immediately everyone said ‘yes,’ ” Oliver said.
Oliver and Malloy agreed that the Scholars Academy brings kids with commonality together, and gives them support because they relate to each other.
“I feel at home,” said Wyatt.
Loetterle also went to the Scholars Academy in 2008.
“This camp gives kids hope,” she said.
When the campers are not in class, they eat together, have karaoke night and went to the water park in the evening. Jeff Sokol, a resident assistant, taught the campers how to play Dungeons and Dragons, a tabletop roleplaying game. At the end of the camp, the students were asked their favorite evening activity and 75% of the campers said it was Dungeons and Dragons.
This is the first year that CCC-Hastings has hosted Scholars Academy. Scholars Academy was previously at Hastings College, but a shift in recruitment strategy and financial concerns nearly ended the program. Oliver and Malloy said that the camp is mostly the same, except for the facilities. The class subjects change every year.
“It was a really smooth transition,” Malloy said.