Sixteen-year-old Anna Cunningham is interested in everything, she’ll tell you with a smile. There are so many possibilities to learn, Cunningham said, and teens who aren’t looking for them are missing out.


Last week, Cunningham recited Shel Silverstein’s poem, Listen To The Mustn’ts, to a group of 33 teens from Winnipeg, Waterloo Region and surrounding area.


It said everything she wanted to say about the possibilities ahead for the group of smart, curious, out-of-the-box thinkers.


At University of Waterloo, the Grade 10 students explored those possibilities for five solid days last week.

As participants in an enrichment program called Waterloo Unlimited, they literally ran from building to building, stretching their minds, their imaginations, even their muscles.

The idea behind Waterloo Unlimited is to expose bright, well-rounded students to ideas that will stimulate them, said systems design engineering Prof. Ed Jernigan, the program’s creator and director.

For one whole week, the students don’t receive a single mark. "If they’re given marks, they worry about getting 95 per cent," Jernigan said. "They don’t take risks. We want to provide a safe environment."

About 200 high-school students a year — from Waterloo Region and across the country — take part in Waterloo Unlimited program.

They’re in Grades 10, 11 and 12. Next spring, the program is expanding to take students from Grade 8.

Jernigan visits schools to talk about the program. Teachers and counsellors recommend promising students.

Then the students apply.

In return for the weeklong experience, Waterloo Unlimited asks four things of students: Accomplish for the sheer joy of accomplishing; figure out what you need for enrichment and seek it; work with others; and be interested in a lot of disciplines.

Torstar News Service