Center's summer classes teach, keep children busy

Zach Gordon classes range from outdoor skills to magic and comedy

Posted: Thursday, June 22, 2000

Hands shot up, and the questions flew fast and furious at the Zach Gordon Youth Center.

``How fast can a peregrine falcon go if they're just flying?'' one child wanted to know.

``Do they have eyelids?'' asked another.

``What other kinds of birds do you have?''

Kira, a peregrine falcon from the Juneau Raptor Center, was the day's featured guest at ``Wild about Wildlife,'' a summer class at the youth center, and she was a hit.

The 20 children laughed as she ate a small dead quail. They compared sample feathers and talons from ravens and falcons and continuously threw their hands up in the air with questions.

``It's doing adventurous things they never would have done,'' Laurie Overbay, who teaches the class, said of its appeal. ``Being able to learn, to get along with others -- just building relationships and bonding with adults.''

Zach Gordon's weekly programs are offered Monday to Friday throughout the summer and are open to children ages 6 to 12. They have been in operation for more than 10 years.

``The structured classes are meant to offer thing to kids between the ages of 6 to 12 to do during the summer,'' said Wendie Marriott, manager of the youth center. ``There is a demand out there for parents to put their younger kids into structured programs, something different than licensed care.''

Often, the children who attend are not regulars at the center, Overbay said. The class offers many parents an alternative to day care -- a situation that can present problems.

``I come upon kids who have no interest in the class. They're just put there because they have nowhere else to go,'' Overbay said.

On the other hand, many children return to the program over the years and participate in as many classes as they can.

``It's really enjoyable to see them again and again year after year,'' Overbay added.

The kids agreed.

``The (classes) are fun and they're not as boring as being at home by yourself with nothing to do,'' said Lauren Olmstead, 10.

``I liked seeing the bird come in and I liked learning about the different kinds of birds,'' added Sofia Tenney, 10. ``It was fun.''

This year, class choices range from ``Cooking in the Great Outdoors'' to ``Fun with Fishing,'' with classes in comedy and magic as well. Generally all of the classes are very popular, Overbay said.

``All of our classes are packed and we have wait lists up to 18 people,'' she added. ``We've never really had a hard time filling up our classes. This year they filled up two weeks after they opened. Some of them filled up the first day.''

Marriott added: ``If I could offer three classes a week, they'd fill up.''

The center offered fewer classes this year, Marriott said, because she's had trouble filling some open jobs.

``There's a demand out there,'' she added. ``But I'm not able to serve it adequately because I'm not able to staff it adequately.''

However, the program is continuing. Overbay will teach for the remainder of June, and fellow staff member Crandall Mark will teach in July.

Overbay is looking forward to the ``Survival in the Tongass'' class.

``It's one I came up with a couple of years ago,'' she said. ``It's all the important things you need to know about wilderness. (The kids) have a blast.''

In the meantime, there's still plenty to enjoy in the current program.

``I really like it,'' said 6-year-old Lynzey Culver. ``You get to go on walks and stuff and they're just fun.''

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