Summer camp helps Lehighton students to connect
Summer academic programs in local school districts are always critical for the continued growth and maturation of students, but administrators and teachers alike would agree that what happens in June-August 2021 may carry more weight than ever before.
Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding from the federal government has districts adding or bolstering summer sessions to help soften the blow of learning loss from pandemic-ridden 2020-21 school year.
One of those programs, an Academic and Adventures Camp for K-8 students in Lehighton Area School District, is in session through Aug. 12.
“Summer programs are essential to addressing learning loss and ensuring an equitable recovery,” Dr. Mark McGalla, middle school principal, said. “Despite the heroic efforts of our schools, the pandemic has severely interrupted student learning and impeded opportunities for them to grow. Summer programs can help students re-connect with peers and caring adults, re-engage in learning, and accelerate their social, emotional and academic recovery.”
Each week of the camp has a different theme. Following a “Stars and Stripes” theme in early July, students are in the midst of a two-week “camping” theme that brought them to Mauch Chunk Lake Park on Thursday.
Two Wellness Camp alumni made an appearance ask volunteer guest speakers. Lyle Cordes shared his experience sleeping in a tent for one year, rock climbing trips and his blog. Addison Howland shared survival skill techniques he has learned and his experience in the U.S. Air Force.
District employees who traveled with students to the lake made students hot dogs for lunch.
“So many students in every district lost growth academically, socially and emotionally over the last year,” Rachel Quinn, one of the camp’s directors, said. “Everyone has experienced some type of loss or trauma. This gets them back in the school climate. There are kids in the program who haven’t been in school since March of 2020. Hopefully this will allow them to be more comfortable when they walk through the doors again.”
It isn’t only the Academic and Adventures Camp, however, with increased attendance this year.
“We’re seeing more students throughout our camps, such as Title I reading and math, and I think it’s a testament to how important this summer is,” Tim Tkach, Lehighton assistant to the superintendent, said. “There are about 40-50 kids in the reading camp and that’s a really good number for us. When the school year gets rolling, there will be assessments to see where everyone is at, but these are all critical activities to bridging that gap after a very challenging year for everyone.”
Earlier in the week, campers incorporated STEAM to build a tent out of play dough, Popsicle sticks and paper, wrote down instructions on how to make a s’more, wrote stories, and told ghost stories around a “campfire” in the library. They also utilized flashlights for English Language Arts activities, spoke about fire safety, and improved upon social skills through board games, play and peer learning.
“It’s a really great experience when it comes to hands on education,” Quinn said. “All of the information they learned in the classroom, they’re able to see that now put into a real-life situation when we come out to Mauch Chunk Lake Park.”
Brynn Wentz, a high school volunteer, has helped search, prepare and lead crafting activities for elementary students. The district also incorporated Carbon-Monroe-Pike Drug and Alcohol Commission’s “Too Good For Drugs” program into the camp.
The remaining camp weeks have themes of “Getting Dirty” and “Carnival.”
The Nutrition Group has provided breakfast and lunch each day.