ATHENA - The dozen or so middle school students running around the basketball court one summer afternoon were in the middle of an educational experiment.
The topic? Basketball.
The final exam? A scrimmage, then a rendition of the Weston-McEwen fight song.
But as they learned about lanes and traveling, proper stance and shooting position, their teachers were learning, too.
Because two of their teachers had decided to teach athletic clinics as part of their high school senior projects, gaining experience toward graduation while improving the sports skills of younger kids.
Jaymie Zimmerman and Morgan Entze, both seniors at Weston-McEwen High School, decided months ago to lead camps for younger local kids in their sport.
Zimmerman picked basketball and Entze picked volleyball, although the girls are teammates in both activities.
The senior project is supposed to incorporate community service and professional experience. The girls have to work a minimum of 15 hours toward the project, then write a paper about the experience and make a presentation in order to graduate.
For Zimmerman, the professional experience is coaching.
"I've thought about being a coach and this can help me see if I'm cut out for it," Zimmerman said. "I'm appreciating my coaches more and more. They definitely do a lot that I didn't think about - like writing a practice plan. I had no idea how much work that was."
It's not just the on-court preparation that takes work. Both girls easily exceeded the minimum hours, although working their sport into the project makes it a labor of love.
They started setting things up in the spring, ordering T-shirts, water bottles and creating brochures. They met with their mentors - their head coach, in both cases - and with academic advisers to make sure the plan meet academic standards.
And while this project helps the girls out - without it, they wouldn't graduate - it's also a help for the team.
Entze has been playing school volleyball since the seventh grade, and attended the volleyball camp for years as a child.
In fact, the volleyball camp has been a senior project for various players for a long time, she said, and most of the team helps out.
"We're learning to coach together," Entze said of the team benefits. "We grow closer because we can count on each other, and we realize how much our coaching staff does for us."
It also builds continuity for the programs.
Some students, like Entze, begin their TigerScots athletic experience with the camp - and learn the coach and team philosophy, and the fight song, to boot - before ever stepping foot on the court as a varsity athlete.
"The kids are working really hard," said W-M girls basketball coach Amber Dormeus, who is also Zimmerman's mentor. "It's great for the kids to be learning from the high school students, because they really look up to them."
And as all the participants run through drills, that's clear. Younger players are eyeing Zimmerman and Entze to make sure they're doing things right.
"I've been coming to this camp since the second grade," Entze said. "I loved it when I was little and I wanted to give other girls that experience."
Entze's camp ran June 13-16, while Zimmerman's ended last Friday.
The volleyball camp had about 60 kids total, Entze said, possibly setting a turnout mark. She's not done yet - the T-shirts arrived late, which means she needs to make deliveries.
With the camps complete, both girls need to write papers about the experience, which will be signed off by their mentor. They will both take senior seminar classes, then make a presentation to the senior projects board.
With a pass, they're free from high school.
"It's a relief," Entze said, of having the camp done. "I learned a lot, and I'm happy with the success of the camp, and I think the kids had a lot of fun."
For Entze, the hardest part was getting everything done on time.
"It was really busy with spring sports," Entze, a three-sport athlete, said. "There were a lot of phone calls to get everything done on time. ... But it really helped me grow. I had to organize everything, and learn to take phone calls and work with people."
For Zimmerman, the planning was the hardest part.
"There was a lot of scheduling stuff within a small amount of time," she said.
In addition to Entze's camp, which was the week before hers, several sports need the gym immediately after in preparation for the school year - including volleyball and girls basketball.
"It was all super-organized," Zimmerman said of the basketball camp. "It's all been really planned out."
But for both girls, the effort has been worth it - and not just in terms of completion of work toward graduation.
"I've always liked helping people and kids," Zimmerman said. "I also hope this can continue. I think it's really good for the program, and when I leave, I want it to keep growing."
And Entze hopes she can send her own kids to the volleyball camp someday. Her mother played volleyball at Weston-McEwen, as did the moms of some other players on the team.
In fact, the volleyball camp has a long tradition in this wheat-farming town of 1,200 people, which hugs the Blue Mountains.
"This is for us to give back to our parents and the other players," Entze said. "Not everyone gets to grow up in a community doing something, and then have the chance to run it yourself. It's awesome. I've known since I was 5 years old that I wanted to coach volleyball and come back and raise my kids here. I love it here."