The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
Matt and Nick Huang were putting the finishing touches on one of their first college projects ever — a claymation movie.
The brothers, 12 and 10 years old respectively, were searching for the perfect explosion noise on YouTube Wednesday afternoon at Skyline College in San Bruno. It’s the final noise needed for their claymation video about a bank robber who works with dogs.
The brothers are two of hundreds of kids locally who enrolled in College for Kids! this summer, a program through the community education department of the San Mateo Community College District. Just about 450 students entering fifth through ninth grade took on classes for three-week periods at the three college campuses. For many students, it was the first time they had a choice in classes and needed to change classrooms in between lessons.
“It’s fun learning,” said Director of Community Education Lily Lau. “It opens their minds and expands their horizons.”
Lau recalled a College for Kids! student who took astronomy a couple of years ago and has since kept in contact with the teacher, visited open house programs and signed up again to take the class.
“He may have never been exposed to astronomy otherwise,” she said. “When else would he have access?”
The key to success is offering a mix of classes in academic, athletic and artistic arenas without grades. Each student enrolls in three courses.
Matt Huang, who this fall will be entering seventh grade at Parkside Intermediate School in San Bruno, really enjoyed changing classes. It was a new experience for him.
College for Kids! is in its 18th season. Each year, parents and students can choose from a new, diverse class list. Some of the more popular courses — like video making — are brought back time after time. Classes at Skyline are coming to an end July 1. Another three-week session begins at the College of San Mateo July 6.
This year, many new topics were introduced to the young student body including robotics, badminton, fashion sketching, to name a few. Classes are taught by a mix of credentialed teachers and experts in the field — such is the case in self defense.
In the wrestling room, students started by warming up. One hundred jumping jacks were to be counted by a single student. If people talked, the group started over. Starting over only happened once. It got loud in the small room as students were encouraged to say, “Kiai,” while reviewing the various moves learned over the three-week period.
In the fine arts building, students drew caricatures.
Twelve-year-old Zach Cummings chose to take the class because he enjoys drawing, but people are not his forte. Cummings likes architecture and traditionally draws buildings.
Over the past three weeks, he’s also had the opportunity to design a Pong-like computer game and program a robot to launch a catapult through his other classes.
In Mad Machines and Wacky Widgets, students were working with a kit to create one of six possible solar-powered toys.
Eleven-year-old Bryan Marquez from San Bruno popped out the next little green piece and started sanding the edges.
Next to him, Shahrukh Hassan worked at the same thing. Hassan, 10, joined the class one day late. He saw the kids making things and wanted to join.
“It’s better than my regular school,” Hassan said, noting how nice the campus and its facilities are. He also liked the choice of classes rather than being forced to take different classes.
Given the opportunity to choose didn’t mean Hassan only took fun classes. He choose a creative writing course and noted an improvement in his skills.
Sign-up for classes begin in the spring. Registration is $399. Spots are still open for the classes at the College of San Mateo which start Tuesday, July 6. Students can sign up, space permitting, through the end of the first day of class. For more information visit http://www.smccd.net/cce/kids .
Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.