Cuts that eliminated special summer school programs for gifted students weren't enough to stop Lynn Gatehouse, a teacher at Harvest Park Middle School.
Gatehouse, on her own, created a 501(c)(3) charity and put together her own program, holding two two-week sessions and bringing in more than 160 students from Pleasanton, San Ramon, Dublin and Livermore with some coming from as far away as Fremont, Santa Clara and Cupertino.
"I knew there was a need and I knew there was an interest," Gatehouse said. "Usually in summer school programs the focus is on mastering skills."
She said programs for gifted students were cut in the Pleasanton school district two years ago.
'It took about a year of planning and finding out what paperwork needed to be filed," she said, adding that finding insurance was a particular challenge.
"Anything dealing with childcare is a problem," she said.
Gatehouse also recruited some of her colleagues to teach everything from art to robotics.
Kevin Kiyoi taught Introduction to Digital Imaging and Web Page Development.
"I made a website using HTML code," said 10-year-old Liam O'Flynn, who's entering fifth grade this fall. "He gave us these subjects and we had to make a website."
O'Flynn's site featured Bigfoot being spotted at a Starbucks.
Neil Bello taught Brain Fitness Through Art, inspiring students to think and solve problems with clay and offering them the chance to use a potters' wheel.
Kevin O'Dea taught Intro to Music Production, where the students created electronic musical compositions using GarageBand software and MIDI keyboards.
Randy Lomas taught Creative Problem Solving, incorporating logic puzzles and Math Olympiad and MathCounts challenges.
One popular program was put together by Gary Mansfield, a semi-retired scientist from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Mansfield taught robotics using LEGO Mindstorms NXT, which included simulations and the Mars Laboratory Challenge. Students demonstrated their robots on the final day, as they made their way through a series of steps to rescue a trapped astronaut. Intern Scott Miller, an incoming freshman at UC Berkeley, helped Mansfield out.
Young volunteers were integral to Gatehouse's program. She brought in 12, students who this fall will be either eighth-graders at Harvest Park or freshmen at Amador Valley High, some of them the siblings of students taking the classes.
"They volunteered to be here," she said.
The programs were such a success that Gatehouse is already making plans for next year.
"This year we offered classes for incoming fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders. We plan to add classes for incoming seventh-graders and possibly incoming eight-graders next summer," she said.