Ohio Wesleyan University finished hosting the first week of its three-week “OWjL” camp on Friday.
For the 35th year in a row, the Ohio Wesleyan/Junior League of Columbus (OWjL) camp chose gifted sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders from nine central Ohio counties to participate in a week-long residential experience where they take classes that challenge their creative abilities as well as their academic ones.
In order to be eligible to attend, a student had to earn high test scores, demonstrate outstanding talent, creativity or leadership, as well as be nominated by a teacher, guidance counselor or principal. As part of the competitive selection process, the students were also required to write an essay, which is read and scored by two readers.
Students created a class schedule from a list of 70 fun, engaging courses, from art classes like cartooning and painting, to the humanities, like mock congress or trial, and even courses about strategy, like participating in their own Hunger Games.
OWjL classes are taught by national board-certified secondary school teachers, teachers of gifted students, university professors and other experts in their fields.
It seemed whatever the campers picked, they’d be doing something challenging and hands-on.
Cole Hatcher, director of media and community relations, stressed the importance of this camp to the academic development of students. He said that because these kids are gifted and a bit more advanced than their peers, many of them aren’t challenged enough during the school year. This camp is their opportunity to excel and develop some of the skills that they can’t during school, as well as be surrounded by like-minded kids.
Being around other gifted kids is just as important as the classes though.
“It’s nice to see the kids forming friendships that will last years,” said Hatcher. “We even hear of campers that grow up and go to each other’s weddings.”
The camp’s executive director, Susan Paxton, said in a prepared statement that one of the most important things the kids learn is that it’s all right to be smart.
The program got its start after the publication of a two-year study that determined gifted and talented middle school students were undeserved during the school year. In order to try and tackle that problem, the Junior League developed and founded this program to encourage discovery and foster skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, research, leadership, and communication.
Since their first session in the summer of 1981, more than 10,000 children have benefited from the OWjL experience. It has had such an impact that many former OWjL attendees have grown up, become parents and sent their children to the camp as second-generation campers.
The camp will conclude its third and final session on July 1.
Morgyn Cooper is an intern for The Gazette.