In fact, there are so many great ideas, we came up with the idea of academic summer camps. I mean, why can't learning be fun? At our summer camps, our goal is simple: to teach and review skills, without letting the children know they are learning! We love to come up with different themes for the camps, to motivate our students. We create "camps" with themes such as Dinosaur Days, Weather Camp, Shark Week, Lego and The Cat in the Hat! We know the themes make students want to come. Once we get their attention, we know we can create learning experiences that don't feel like learning at all!
During summer camps, I love to open the door of the classroom and observe. I even take pictures to show parents. I love to see children sprawled on the floor or sitting together at the table, hard at work on a story they came up with on their own. I love to see them multiplying sets of penguin erasers or farm animal counters, when just this morning, they didn't even know how to multiply! I love watching them run across the yard, while our solar balloon gets higher and higher above them in the sky, demonstrating solar power! Summer is a great time to allow students to delve into interests, such as animals, weather, mysteries and fossils (while also practicing reading, writing and math skills!). The motivating themes hide the fact that real work is going on here. It's not just a science experiment. It's a story to write. It's a math problem to solve. As I move around the center, I am listening for students' comments. My favorite sound sounds like this: "Awwww....time to clean up and go home already?" "Don't worry, " the teacher consoles. "You can do more tomorrow!"
Last year, in Penguin Encounters, for example, our students measured and compared the sizes, weights, and speeds of various types of penguins. Students compared how far they could walk with an egg on their feet. They left camp with a book of penguin facts they wrote themselves. They added, subtracted, skip-counted, graphed and sorted penguins. They matched penguin types with habitats. They wrote stories about arctic animals and illustrated them. We taught more than writing, reading and math. We taught them about penguins. That's what they came for! In Spy Camp, students wrote mysteries. They made their own secret codes and wrote messages to each other. They learned to study their fingerprints and how the police catch criminals. They solved the "Mystery Number" each day. They wrote riddles and dared their classmates to answer them!
This year, academic camps are in full swing again! In Extreme Weather, our students spent some time laying in the grass, sketching different types of clouds, after reading a book about clouds. They have checked their solar paper experiments. Everyone has made a different pattern and is excited to see what the paper looks like after being in the sun outside! As they write their journal entries about their solar paper experiments, the radiometer starts to twirl. The sun has finally found its way through the back window. Everyone stops writing and gathers around to see solar power on display! As the sun bakes down at it, the radiometer quickens. It spins faster and faster! The questions start flying: "How does it do that?" "Can we put it in the shade and see what happens?" "Will it ever stop?"
I close the door and go back to my office, content to know their questions will spur another day of learning! So, how does the radiometer spin? You'll have to come to camp tomorrow and find out!
|Releasing the butterflies|