It was show-and-tell time on Friday for students participating in Oregon State University’s Outside the Box precollege program, and so 13-year-old Brad Stein of Corvallis was showing off the details of a game he designed on a small laptop computer.

His parents were impressed by the work of the Franklin School student: In fact, his mother, Brenda, said Brad is entertaining thoughts of pursuing a career in creating computer games.

But the computer game class wasn’t Brad’s favorite in the classes he took during the program’s two-week run.

“I think my favorite class was ‘On the Air,’ where we had our own radio show and got to see how radio runs,” he said. “I also liked acting class. We learned how to act and we learned you need volume, pitch and rhythm in order to catch people’s attention.”

Brad was one of about 85 high-achieving students from throughout the region who participated in the program, in which students can choose from about 20 courses ranging from acting to Lego robotics. The program wrapped up with Friday’s showcase presentations, for parents and others.

Students come from Corvallis and surrounding cities, including Albany, Lebanon and Lincoln City, said Tamara Benning, the program coordinator. She said students eligible for the program must meet certain criteria that identify them as high-ability. Each student takes four courses during the two weeks.

Tuition for the two-week program was $440, plus additional costs for certain courses that required extra materials or lab fees. Outside the Box is funded through student fees and donations.

It’s one of three similar programs OSU offers to students, and those programs also wrapped up on Friday. Adventures in Learning attracted 108 fifth- and sixth-graders, and Expeditions had 150 third- and fourth-graders.

The idea is to give students who have shown high potential in academic areas an idea of instruction in a higher education atmosphere, and OSU gets a chance to show what it can offer to students likely to be choosing a college in a few years.

Benning said it is not uncommon for students to do the programs multiple times. “There have been some kids who have gone through all three camps.”

In fact, Brenda Stein said she expects her son to return to the program next summer.

“I think he really enjoyed it,” she said. “It’s really good for all these kids to get together.”

And Brad said he had enjoyed the program enough to suggest it to friends. “There are so many places that have classes, they’re bound to have one of your interests,” he said.

Another student from Franklin School, eighth-grader Jordan Holdaway, 13, also had her family at Friday’s showcase. Her TekPet panda, Oreo, was on display at the electronic pet table.

“It was an arts and crafts project. I used a computer to program it,” Holdaway said. “I liked making the TekPet; that was my favorite class. I liked meeting people and learned a lot of new things.”

(2) comments


My child attended these programs growing up and while they were fun for her, she still dropped out of the public school system finding it boring and restrictive. Can't we bring these programs into the schools' everyday teachings and get rid of the teaching to the test that is going on nowadays?


Public schools are designed on a factory model, which is why the system does not work for most kids who are not in the middle of the bell curve. Any outliers are either left behind or bored to tears.

I thought public schools in Corvallis, where 25 percent of the student population is identified as gifted (top 3 percent), would be different, somehow better than what I experienced going through school. And while my kids have been out of the system for more than a decade now, the sad thing was that the public schools were not really any better for my kids than the schools I attended in a town that was not populated with folks who blew the bell curve out of the water.

Education is difficult - because of the factory model, the system teaches to the middle. And even if that middle is higher up the scale than in most communities, it is still the middle. Anyone who is even slightly out of the mid-range will be ignored or at least underserved.

The only solution is to make educating your children a very personal experience, using every option at hand to assist. Depending on a public school education is not going to work for your child unless he or she is someone for whom the educational model and methods being used work.

Being a parent is difficult. My children both made it through Corvallis Public Schools successfully, but it was a struggle to keep them engaged and present long enough to graduate. Programs like the above were useful in assisting - and I also made use of online options, CLEP tests (to bypass what my older daughter called "poster classes"), LBCC and OSU classes. If I had depended solely on our public schools for my daughters' education, both would have dropped out by the time they hit high school.

And when my older daughter attended Adventures In Learning, she found the same problems with teaching to the middle that she experienced in public schools. Which is why she spent several years working as an assistant at them during and after college - the director (not the present one) recognized that my daughter could connect with the outliers, because she was one herself.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.