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November 1, 2008

The city of Lama will inevitably be lost on some. But there are those, including city founder Cole Grimes, who will sing you the city theme song on demand.

"Lama Lama Lama, Lama Lama, Lama Lama Lama Lama," the 10-year-old sings.

The capital city of the country of the same name, Lama City, rests in the southeast corner of Lama. It connects with the city of Wombat by way of the Wombat Railroad, which stretches across the vast Ramen Desert.

The infectious melody of the city song has made the entire country somewhat of a favorite among the founders of neighboring lands Intellitopia and the White Islands. It doesn’t hurt that Lama’s Pony Mountains are made of miniature peanut butter chips.

Creating countries and perfecting mapping skills is only the beginning for the nine fifth-graders in Kippy Sinclair’s Discovery class at Yokota West Elementary School.

Discovery is part of the school’s gifted resource program, for which second- through fifth-grade students can be nominated. Students in the program meet briefly with Sinclair once a day for activities that coincide with studies in their regular classrooms, according to Sinclair.

The first section of Discovery ended last week with the students creating edible versions of their countries, complete with M&M cities, Twizzler railroad tracks, and blue-frosting bodies of water set in dough that makes up the land.

"I still haven’t finished eating it, but my brother ate a large amount," said 10-year-old Jake Zobrist.

"He says it’s a little peanut buttery, but he likes it."

Next up, the students will set sail to the open seas, explore new lands and map out new frontiers as they seek to create as much wealth as possible while establishing themselves in the "New World."

Sinclair’s format will have the students divide up into two colonies, with each member holding a particular office: governor, vice governor, auditor, mapper, recorder and trader.

Langley Sonnenberg, 10, said her sister was in the class last year and got her excited about it.

"She told me we’d have to make many decisions," Langley said excitedly. "I would sail to another country and conquer the land, and I would be the leader of the New World."

The success of the students’ journey depends greatly on their ability to face adversity — as determined by a daily roll of the die or drawing of a card, Sinclair said.

"A weeklong storm drives your ship off course. You lose 100 miles," one card reads.

"Floods sweep through all coastal sections. Each coastal section of land in your colony loses three adults and 300 units of food," another reads.

"That’s where the math comes in," Sinclair said. "They have to keep track of all of this. They pick one card every day — weather, hunting, general welfare and farming."

During the journey, the students create flags, acquire land, food and other goods, and they deal with any one of three Native American tribes upon their arrival to the New World.

When Discovery wraps up in late November, the students’ success will depend on whether they are able to repay their lender 100 percent of their initial supply costs and a percentage of their acquired wealth.

Sinclair said she is thrilled to teach the program, now in its second year, and appreciates the hands-on opportunity for the students to learn about early American colonists.

"It’s like they are a part of it," she said.

"They are going to see their losses and their gains. It’s not like they are going to read about the first lost colony: ‘Oh, they all died, and then Jamestown came around.’ They’ll know what strife these colonists went through."

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