Charlie Maki, 8, and Hannah Maki, 13, of Moorhead sew penguins out of sock and gloves Tuesday during the Stuffed! class at Minnesota State University Moorhead for their College for Kids program. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

By: Ryan Johnson, INFORUM

MOORHEAD – Hundreds of area youngsters are on the Minnesota State University Moorhead campus this summer, getting their hands dirty crafting clay masterpieces and diving into the science of nanotechnology.

Now in its 13th year, the university’s annual summer program College for Kids aims to give 8- to 14-year-olds a chance to do something enriching and educational with classes in sports, science and art, co-director Shireen Alemadi said.

But don’t call these learning experiences summer school.

“With some of the students, they’re at the age where they don’t realize that they’re learning something,” she said. “So, they’re having fun and getting to do things they might not have done before in school, but they also learn stuff.”

More than 300 students are taking the wide variety of classes being offered this week and next week on the campus, Alemadi said.

Hannah Maki, 13, was busy Tuesday creating her own stuffed penguin out of a colorful sock, and said she signed up for the class because she loves to sew and thought it would be fun to make something different.

The class started Monday, and by the time it wraps up today, the Moorhead Horizon Middle School eighth-grader’s penguin will become a prized part of her stuffed animal collection.

More than a dozen kids were learning all about image composition Tuesday afternoon in “Happenin’ with the Holga,” a class that teaches the basics of film photography and how to make their own black-and-white print in a darkroom after shooting pictures with a cheap, plastic camera known for its unpredictable and fun photos.

The class was a perfect fit for Jack Lingle, 11, who said he likes taking pictures with his digital camera but was having fun experimenting with the camera that inspired smartphone app Instagram.

Instructor Ashley Strazzinski, a fourth-year photography student at MSUM, said teaching the class – and trying to explain film to kids who have grown up with digital cameras – has been a learning experience for her as well.

“One of the first questions I asked them was, ‘Why would you photograph with a Holga?’ ” she said. “And one of the first things coming out of a student’s mouth was because basically film is obsolete, something you don’t use, so it’s new and exciting because they don’t know about it.”

A group of girls taking the easel-painting class were excited as they described their art – a frog, an owl, a “bunch of ducks” and other animals made with sparkling watercolors and splatter paint.

They were learning plenty from the class, but none said they felt like they were in summer school – even if they were.

“This is a lot more fun,” said Sara Smith.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587