LLOYD The squeaks and squeals echoing in an upstairs hallway at Greenup County High School Thursday were the sounds of discovery in action.

Up close, it looked like children blowing up balloons, but when they taped the balloons to straws threaded onto strings that were stretched across the hall, the bigger picture came into focus: youthful engineers working out the requirements for building an air-powered aerial tramway.

Or, as teammates Lucy Roy, Abbygail Imel and Addison Hudson put it, “It’s a rocket, and the air in the balloon makes it go.”

That was about the extent of their command of the principles of rocket propulsion, but the real purpose of the activity was to experiment with the materials at hand — balloons, straws, string and tape — to design a system that would travel successfully across the hall, according to Kacey Carver, the mathematics teacher overseeing the multiple teams.

Over multiple flights, the children adjusted angles, tape placement and other variables to improve performance. It was an experiment in engineering and teamwork. “It keeps their minds active during the summer,” Carver said.

The children were among 84 enrolled in the Greenup County district’s week-long Summer Blast Off day camp, five days of science-based fun designed to stop what educators call “the summer slide,” said Kerri Stambaugh, director of the district’s 21st Century learning program.

“Studies show kids who are not active in camps and continuing education in the summer fall behind in the fall,” Stambaugh said.

The camp provided an hour and a half each of math and reading each day, wrapped up in working sessions to manufacture catapults, moon rocks, paper planes, slime and rocket cars.

“We’re learning if we want to build a car, we’d build it with our imagination,” said Remington Bartee, who will be in third grade this fall.

And if Remington did build a car with his imagination? “It would be kind of like a Lamborghini on the outside but inside it would have a kitchen or something. And a TV.”

It was the second week of summer camp; this week campers are in the School of Google Rock, a mashup of music and digital technology. They are learning to use computer code and make their own instruments from buckets, cans and other household materials.

Campers will spend next week at Greenbo Lake State Park playing retro games like Twister and lawn darts (the safe kind), and meeting historical characters reenacted by their teachers.

Last week children explored farm life, encountering ducks, chickens, rabbits and cows, and making ice cream and egg salad.

“When they go back to school in the fall, they’ll go forward. They won’t have forgotten,” Stambaugh said.

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Mike James is The Independent's education reporter. He has covered news in Northeast Kentucky since 1996.