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Hands-on gaming: Linkhorne Middle students construct lawn games during camp

Hands-on gaming: Linkhorne Middle students construct lawn games during camp

By Liz Ramos

Linkhorne Middle School rising eighth grader Micah Burford struggled to put his left hand on a red circle during a game of Twister on Thursday morning.

E’Monie Cashwell, 13, then instructed Nazreana Petty, both rising eighth graders, to put her right foot on a yellow circle.

After a few seconds of trying to maneuver around Micah, Nazreana, 13, fell onto the homemade Twister cloth board.

The three middle schoolers were outside Vector Space in downtown Lynchburg with seven other Linkhorne Middle School students Thursday morning playing lawn games they built or created during the 21st Century Summer Blast program this week.

Monday through Wednesday, the 10 students spent time at Vector Space with two of the business’ instructors learning how to use power tools, measure and other skills to build games such as cornhole, ladder golf, Twister and Jenga. Vector Space is a local nonprofit and makerspace.

The group spent Thursday outside playing the games, which included a giant Jenga game, ladder golf, scoreboard, Twister and cornhole. The cornhole boards were decorated with E.C. Glass and Heritage high school logos and school colors.

Linkhorne Middle School and Vector Space have been partnering through the 21st Century program to provide after school and summer programs for students for about two and a half years. The 21st Century grant pays for the camp.

Vector Space Executive Director and instructor Elise Spontarelli said each semester and each camp focuses on a handful of skills. This week’s camp focused on woodworking and carpentry skills including painting, sewing, measuring, cutting and putting pieces together, mostly with wood and PVC.

“Tradespeople and craftsmen tend to be people of an older generation, and we want to make sure that those skills are still alive. Getting youth in here and learning them is a start,” Spontarelli said.

Linkhorne Middle School 21st Century Grant Coordinator Tanita Anthony said to select which students will participate in the camp, she reached out to science and math teachers for recommendations on students who were “really enthusiastic” about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math projects.

Anthony said students applied concepts they learned in class to building the games.

“The kids love it. They get hands-on experience with engineering, and they apply what they know and what they’ve learned from their math, English and art classes at Linkhorne and bring them over here and get to really implement what they’re learning in class,” Anthony said.

Spontarelli said the Vector Space team tries to think of projects that will not only be fun and interesting but also real and “not just make something for the sake of making it.”

“I could talk all day about why we measure things and cut things, but until they cut something wrong because they didn’t measure it and see that it doesn’t fit together that way, it doesn’t translate,” Spontarelli said.

Spontarelli said she enjoyed seeing students start the camp having no idea how to use power tools to learning and being able to expand their skill sets in just a few short days.

“They don’t have a lot of hands-on skills when they get here and then to actually see they made something they can play with is really great. They get to reap the rewards in this very week, and seeing the transformation in just a couple of days is really cool,” she said.

Many students said the camp was an opportunity for them to get out of their houses.

“I like doing stuff. I don’t like being bored over the summer, so I came here so I could have something to do,” said Brendalyn Bryant, a rising seventh grader.

Micah, 13, said the camp was a fun learning experience because the students worked together as a team to construct the games, and at the end of the camp they could play the games with their friends.

After the camp, the games will be taken to Linkhorne Middle to be used during the school year.

“I’m excited they get to take them back to their school and tell their classmates, ‘look I built this, I made this,’ and it gets to be something they get to enjoy and hopefully find pride in,” Spontarelli said.

Liz Ramos covers K-12 education for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434)385-5532.

Liz Ramos covers K-12 education for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434)385-5532.

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