Monsters in Los Osos: Middle-schoolers put on Halloween production

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comOctober 24, 2013 

Genetically mutated monsters have crash-landed at Los Osos Middle School, and dozens of students are gearing up to deliver some good scares Friday and Saturday during a special Halloween-esque event.

About 90 students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades have worked for weeks to build the “Area 55: Be Scared” event scheduled for 6 to 10 p.m. at the school.

“They’re learning a lot about persevering, about building things,” middle school teacher Greg Wilcox said. “It’s problem-solving. It’s hands-on.”

The students have been working with liberal arts, engineering and architecture students from Cal Poly to put together a parallel universe where genetically engineered organisms have invaded the small coastal campus and Federal Safety Administration officials rush in to assess the scene.

Lessons in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics helped the kids put together the 6,000-square-foot project that will come alive through mazes, light, sound, acting and other media.

The event won’t have the traditional blood and gore of other Halloween happenings, Wilcox said, but promises hearty doses of adrenaline and humor.

Eighth-grade student Rachel Leahy, 13, says she hasn’t received a specific part to play yet but would love to be an FSA agent when the lights go down.

“It sounds like fun, maybe getting attacked by a GEO and helping everyone,” she said excitedly, minutes before she and other students did their first walk-through of their creation Thursday.

One of her favorite things was working with Cal Poly engineering students to see how to make glow-in-the-dark eggs with special coverings and paint.

“I enjoy science, but I’m also really interested in theatrical makeup,” she said. “And making monsters sounded cool.”

Seventh-grade student Elias Simons, 12, was found on the other side of campus Thursday, guiding students through a station that had shaky walls, tight spaces and torn pieces of foam that cluttered the floor.

He made sure to check whether people were comfortable crawling through one area or whether he should direct them to an exit. Earlier in the project, Elias helped built walls with plywood and a drill and recorded sounds for special effects.

“There’s going to be a projection with cockroaches on the wall so we tried to make scuttling noises,” he said. “I clicked on a keyboard to help make the sound.”

Elias decided to sign up for the event because he likes helping and creating. But, he added, another plus was “I get to scare people,” he said with a big grin. “It just looked really fun.”

If you go …

Tickets for “Area 55: Be Scared” are available at the door at Los Osos Middle School, 1555 El Morro St. General admission is $10; students are $8; and groups of four or more get a discounted rate of $7.50 per ticket. Proceeds benefit the school and its Central Coast Makerspace program, which lets students to design, build, make and engage in creative activities, according to the school. For information, check out the event’s Facebook page at

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