MANSFIELD - Nick Horner, co-director of Mansfield University's Gifted Camp, says the camp has made some exciting changes this year and is looking forward to providing new opportunities for its students.
Horner, a graduate of Liberty High School, said he started working at the annual camp as a instructor and counselor about five years ago and really "fell in love with the program and what it offered to students in our area."
The weeklong camp, which hosts a few dozen students at the university, is held each July.
Kids at Mansfield University’s annual “gifted camp” get to use climbing walls, do special activities and learn in the classroom from special speakers for a week each July.
Resident Scholar Phil Haynes discusses
the application of improvisational strategies
in multi-medium work and how it can extend
to interdisciplinary innovation. Haynes is
an internationally renowned jazz percussionist and composer.
Three students take part in a class called “Chemistry Kitchen.” They prepared foods while studying the science of gastronomy — the study of food and culture.
"Camp has always been structured with classes during the day, activities mid-day and an evening project. As we have been identifying how we can make the experience better and more beneficial to students, we identified one way was to give students more time with people who are immersed in their fields and see things through the eyes of those pursuing a career path with passion," Horner said.
"Our Resident Scholar program features two course instructors that will live in the dorms with the students. (They) each teach a class and help with the evening projects, which are more open-ended, and try to explore the innovative approach to whatever problem we are trying to solve," he added.
Each year, students travel from all over the northeast United States, including Virginia,
New York and Pennsylvania, with the "vast majority from our local area."
"We are really open for students who want to spend a week having fun while learning and making new friends with similar interests," he said. "Our students have interest in the arts, literature and sciences and we try to cater to that diverse group."
There is no academic testing requirement for students interested in the camp - just a willingness to learn.
The camp is open to students in grades four through eight and costs $480 for overnight and $410 for commuter campers. Overnight participants stay in the newer residence halls - Sycamore, Spuce, Oak or Hickory.
"Despite these changes, we are not raising the cost of the camp, and have used this as a means to be more creative and thrifty with the resources we have," Horner said.
One of the more popular activities is screen printing on clothing.
"All students will learn how to screenprint T-shirts. Last year one of our students made the design for the camp T-shirt. This year each will be able to print their own T-shirt as part of the camp," he said. "It's a great way for students to learn a new skill while conserving resources.
The camp's theme this year is "One Community, One Future." It delves into "different perspectives, ecologically, socially and artistically," he added.
Speakers will discuss topics such as urban development.
"We are using what we have available to give our campers a meaningful experience and go back to their communities to apply the skills they learned and find inspiration to seek out further educational opportunities" Horner said.
The students used to have three classes a day with each one running over an hour.
"This year there will be only two morning class periods, each with three course options. In the afternoon we will be bringing in speakers and providing a number of camp-specific activities," he said.
Popular activities such as the rock wall and visits to the pool will be back. A trip to the Pine Creek Gorge, also known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, and downtown Wellsboro is planned.
"These are fun learning activities that students will remember," Horner said.
Two evenings during the week, students will be prompted by resident scholars to innovate something that will better their communities by inventing something or addressing a problem that exists and developing a means of solving it.
"Students will also work together to develop a 'dream community,' where they will decide what it would look like, problems it would face and how community members would solve them, to get them thinking largescale and practically," he added, noting that the exercise was based on a final project he had during his time at the Pennsylvania Governor's School for Teaching in 2006.
Horner also is a graduate of Bucknell University and works in New York City with the non-profit arts program Make Music New York. The nonprofit will host more than 1,000 concerts on June 21.
Outside of the Gifted Camp, Horner is an active performer and educator and has taught throughout the Northeast and Midwest, most notably at Michigan's prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts.
He expressed his love for teaching, stating that he considered the Mansfield Gifted Camp as "some of his finest work as an educator."
"The world through the eyes of a child is incredible! They are filled with so much optimism and wonder," he said. "Our goal at the Mansfield University Gifted Camp is to teach students to harness their unique insights and cultivate a lifelong love of learning."
The camp runs from July 13-19 at Mansfield University. It is directed by Horner and co-director Katie Debach, of Troy.
For more information, visit the camp website at www2.mansfield.edu/camps/gifted-camp.cfm.