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New Summer School Now In Session
It used to be called simply summer school.

If offered students a chance to forgo television and the beach and catch up on the academic classes they had ignored or slept through before school began again in the fall.

Now, it's much more complicated - and interesting.

At Cardozo Middle School in a project called 'Summer Action,' children have been reading books about flying and the pioneer woman pilot Amelia Earhart who disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 while trying to fly around the world; building model roller coaster rides with wooden sticks and glue guns; and raising worms in boxes of shredded newspaper to make compost for community gardens.

Explaining how to keep several hundred youngsters of grades first through fifth interested, amused and out of mischief while still giving them some education, the program's academic support leader Aleah Rosario said "we can run with any activities the students or staff come up with. We have more freedom in summer."

The children's classroom activities are designed to lead up to scheduled field trips.

Recently they moved their classes outdoors to Jacob Myers Park in Riverbank and hiked the trails along the Stanislaus River to observe the plants and animals and fish.

This week on Tuesday they went further afield and 140 third and fourth grade students were due to take buses to Castle Air Force Base museum in Atwater. There they were slated to see the planes of World War II, restored Liberators and Super Fortresses that bombed Germany relying on equipment that was not much more sophisticated than the twin-engine Lockheed Electra plane in which Earhart made her epic flights.

In preparation, the children were making model airplanes out of paper and Styrofoam, testing different wing shapes and airfoils to determine their lift in varying conditions.

Today, June 16, the first and second graders are scheduled to take a trip to the Stockton Children's Museum and tomorrow the fifth graders head off to the San Jose Tech Museum.

Next week, students will ride the bus to the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, different grades going on different days.

"There's some hands-on stuff, like entering the rain forest exhibit, having butterflies around them and feeling the different temperatures and varying humidity," said Rosario.

Next month, the final field trip will be to Knights Ferry that has a museum chronicling its history, preserved monuments from its early mining and grain grinding days and a covered bridge said to be the longest one west of the Mississippi.

The worms, however, have also made an impression on several students.

"They eat the newspaper, coffee grounds, bits of food, everything and poop it out the end as soil, really light soil which is great for growing vegetables," noted one participant.