School has been out for nearly a month for most students, but top elementary and middle school students from Brunswick, Sussex and Mecklenburg counties have joined students from Emporia-Greensville for a two-week crash course summer Governor’s School at Greensville County High School.
“They love coming and I love the fact we have students from different counties coming together,” Program Coordinator Brenda Matthews said. “It gives students of the same mindset the opportunity to work together. Here everybody has brains going 90 miles an hour and they develop friendships that last forever. I love that.”
Matthews, a teacher at Greensville Elementary, is in her third year as program coordinator, but she has been involved in the Summer Governor’s School Program for several years. The fourth and fifth grade elementary school students are being taught oceanography and geology. The sixth and seventh grade students are learning environmental science and space exploration.
The students were required to write essays and make a two-week commitment in order to be in the selection pool for the course. The number of students were selected by county. Mecklenburg County has the most students, followed by Emporia-Greensville, Sussex and Brunswick. Matthews made it a point to have volunteers and students assistants representing all of the counties with students taking the course.
After attending school for nine months heading to school for another two weeks is not exactly what many youth want to add to their plans. Some attending Summer Governor’s School for the first time came in with doubts about the decision. Brayden Slagle, of Emporia, was one of those first-time students with doubts about enrolling in the course. Those doubts were extinguished.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “This is really a lot of fun and I’m learning a lot.”
It’s not the first rodeo for Dakota Dickens, of Emporia-Greensville, but it will be her last as she ages out after this year. She has enrolled in the course every summer she has been eligible. She said she enjoys every minute of Governor’s School. Her favorite topic this year is the space exploration.
Matthew Dodson, of Mecklenburg County built a rocket using straws early in the week and followed by building a robot using Legos and other material. Dodson downloaded the instructions from his phone and used the material available to complete his project. He is looking forward to the projects yet to come this summer.
Another veteran of the Summer Governor’s School is Addie Swenson, of Emporia’s Wyatt Middle School.
“Governor’s School is amazing,” Swenson said. “This is my third year and it keeps getting better and better.”
Greensville Elementary School teacher Melissa Harrison is heading the Oceanography class and has teen assistant Chardonnay Boyce, of Brunswick County, assisting with the course. The students are learning about the plants and animals occupying the ocean. The 11 fourth and fifth grade students also learned geology from Gail Staton and participated in hands-on activities working on independent projects and other projects together.
“Students work on scientific activities focused on rocks, minerals and caves,” Staton said. “They use higher level thinking skills while interacting with students from other counties.”
On Thursday the students took a field trip to Luray Caverns and viewed cave formations and sifted through dirt to locate rocks. The students will also take a field trip to Vulcan Materials in Skippers to learn the importance of mining.
During the course students will conduct research and create a cave habitat as a group project. The students will individually become familiar with a specific bat and present their findings to other members of the class. Staton said the two-week course will help students gain a better understanding of many geographical concepts.
The hands-on activities were plentiful for the older students. Jason Chen, of Bluestone Middle School and Maliek Murrell, of Wyatt Middle School had the opportunity to fly a drone by remote control. Chen said it helped him learn about gravity and the three laws of motion. Murrell said he has flown a drone in the past and it helped as he operated a drone for Governor’s School, but it was still not the easiest thing to do.
“When you fly a drone, experience helps,” Murrell said. “It’s hard to control. I was looking at the directions sheet to fly it. There is also a button on the back that makes it do flips. There is also a camera that allows us to take pictures.”
Students studied the relationships of the natural world and the relationships between organisms and their environments in the environmental science class. Growing plants, constructing paper mache endangered species and many other projects are part of the course load. Cooking Smore’s and nachos in solar ovens made by the students is another project in the class.
The students will gain plenty of knowledge during Summer Governor’s School, but learning is only part of the joy for the students.
“This is great,” Murrell said. “This is my third time here. It’s fun meeting other people you have not met before.”