“Themed” Camp Helps to Enriches its Students

POUGHKEEPSIE – Elementary-age students in Poughkeepsie City School District are planting seeds, creating volcanoes, learning about engineering, flying drones and more as part of the summer enrichment program at Poughkeepsie Middle School.

Under the auspices of the Community Schools Department, Community partners Charlia Frank and Community Matters 2 are providing activities Monday through Friday for 150 students.

This week, second grade students were learning about volcanoes in stages. First they drew volcanoes, then made them out of Play-Dough, moved on to Pop Rocks and then a mixture of oil, water, food coloring and a tablet that made it fizz, explained Kedaer Parks, who designed the curriculum for Charlia Frank. The finale is a volcano built around a water bottle coated with sand that will actually erupt – spewing fizzy lava out of its top.

But, for the children dropping fizzy tablets into cups of water, the white and green foam was plenty exciting. It represented the start of an eruption.

“It’s bubbling,” they screamed with glee after dropping the tablets into their cups.

“It’s a theme-based program and we want to teach them different things,” Parks said. “It’s education in a fun way,” she said.

Students do different crafts during each theme week to reinforce the learning.

But, the camp isn’t just about classroom activities.

There are field trips – including one to the Vassar Preserve this week for STEAM activities, physical activities – including yoga and kickball, swimming (as soon as the pool is open), games, breakfast and lunch.

Fridays are special at the camp.

“We do Fun Fridays,” Natasha Brown, executive director of community schools said. Pizza is brought in for lunch and students play games outside weather-permitting.

The 10 camp counselors are joined this year by five junior counselors who are between the ages of 13-15. The counselors are teaching the junior counselors to be counselors. Junior counselors such as Demarco Murray are PCSD students and get an opportunity to work directly with the younger students who look up to them, Parks said.

Plus, they also participate in classes designed for them.

Brown said that AmeriCorps Fellow Julia Kisilinsky put together a writing workshop for the junior counselors and there is also a cooking session and others.

Engineering and tech lead program for older students
While Charlia Frank handles students in grades K-2, Community Matters 2 works with students in grades 3-6. This week, they were at Camp Nooteeming, participating in outdoor activities that included archery, boating, a swim test and instruction.

The focus of instruction for grades 3-6 was also STEAM enrichment, L’Quette Taylor, founder and CEO of CM2 said.

The first few weeks were spent with Growing STEMz counselors on a series of sessions geared toward engineering. Taylor said students learned about solar power, battery power and how to harness water currents to generate power and think like an engineer.

When they return from Camp Nooteeming the focus will shift to technology as students learn block coding; how to fly, film and create patterns for drones; do music simulations on the iPad, learn to type and learn to build code blocks for the Occulus VR devices.

“We have to be able to teach them in their world,” he said, adding that students spend at least 1.5 hours in STEAM learning.

There are also plenty of other activities including swimming, flag football, GaGa Ball, hula hoops, mentoring and a “Speak Up” exercise during which students learn to speak in front of a group.

“We want to build stronger relations with the campers and the counselors,” Taylor said.

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