Yaro Hoffman, 3, picked up a meatball scooper to dig up multicolored aluminum acorns and transfer each from one bowl to another, part of a teaching activity used at Belfair Montessori.

Yaro was among hundreds of children who participated in hands-on activities and demonstrations during Saturday’s East Baton Rouge Mania annual recruiting event at Cortana Mall for magnet and gifted programs.

Belfair Montessori student Amy Ruckman, 9, guided and cheered Yaro each time he grabbed the scissor-like handles, which gave him a lesson on opening and closing and transferring, she said.

Amy’s mother, Andrea, a school volunteer, explained the concept to questioning parents. “Children learn with touching and doing and the teacher is guiding and supporting them,” she said.

Yaro’s mother, Charmaine Hoffman, was thrilled about the event because she wants to send Yaro to a magnet school next year. He already loves cutting paper and looking at books, she said.

“He is hands-on, and I like the individualized aspect of the Montessori program,” she said. “It’s advanced, and it sets the educational standard for later,” Charmaine Hoffman said, adding she also is considering The Dufrocq School, another magnet program, for Yaro.

EBR Mania provided parents with information on the application period for the 2012-13 school year at all of the system’s elementary, middle and high schools with magnet programs.

The event informed parents about Baton Rouge public schools’ gifted and talented programs. There are about 6,000 students enrolled in magnet programs and about 2,800 enrolled in the gifted and talented program, said Carlos Sam, director of innovative and specialized programs for the East Baton Rouge Parish School System.

Saturday’s event featured musicals, skits, concerts and jazz ensembles staged by several elementary, middle and high magnet and gifted and talented schools, Sam said.

The district’s period for accepting magnet school applications online for the next school year is through Dec. 13.

Magnet programs are specialized, often accelerated programs which offer students enhanced curriculums such as visual and performing arts, Montessori, foreign language immersion, engineering, medical and academic models with a strong focus on science, technology and math, Sam said.

Woodlawn High talented art students Joshua Bell, a sophomore, and his sister, Jasmine Bell, a senior, are singers who performed before hundreds of people at the mall. They received a wave of applause at the conclusion of their rendition of “Listen,” from the soundtrack of “Dreamgirls.”

Joshua and Jasmine said they started singing at 3 years of age and have improved their skills since attending their school’s talented program.

Their mother agreed.

“The magnet program has helped Joshua cultivate and perfect his craft,” said Dimetra Wright. “And they have each learned the chords and writing music and how to produce music.”

Scotlandville Magnet High’s engineering program caught parent Meltreka Yates’ attention. “My daughter likes building stuff, and she wants to get into an engineering program and they (Scotlandville) have a good one,” she said.

Scotlandville Magnet students Ailiyah Goins, 15, and Anthony Kenney, pulled out their marketing skills to persuade Yates and her daughter, Tranikco Quiett, to consider signing up. “I enjoy the activities and the projects,” Ailiyah told Tranikco. “We do a lot of hands-on with electricity and pulleys and electrical currents.”

Tranikco sounded intrigued: “They do projects and they have time and they don’t rush.”

Parent Kenri Avery, who wants to transfer his daughter to Scotlandville Magnet next year, said the magnet programs are a plus for the parish.

“With the educational structure in the state, it has lost some of its integrity. EBR is reaching out to parents and students to attend a magnet program if they qualify,” Avery said.

All magnet programs are application-based, meaning applicants must apply within a specific time frame and qualify for the program. In some cases, especially at the elementary school level, the initial process involves only an application.

However, all elementary magnets - except Baton Rouge Center for Visual and Performing Arts and the Montessori programs - require applicants to go through a screening process to determine final eligibility if they are selected.

For information on magnet programs call (225) 922-5443 or visit http://www.ebrschools. org.