Summer camps brings students back to school

·3 min read

Aug. 5—School may be out for summer, but at both elementary schools in North Bend, students are pouring into the schools every day.

After receiving a grant from the state, the North Bend School District created mini-camps running most of the summer. And the response from students has been amazing.

On Tuesday, students at Hillcrest Elementary were smiling and laughing in two classrooms as they took part in space camp and art camp. A few feet away, dozens of students practiced in a music theater camp and outside, more students were taking part in soccer camp.

"We've run camps every week since we started June 23," said Lisa Harnden, a teacher who has run the summer camps at Hillcrest. "We had one week off of work."

Despite the busy schedule, the primary theme for the summer has been fun with a dose of learning. Bruce Martin, who serves as director of elementary education in North Bend, said the camps have been heavily supported by teachers and students.

"As a district, we thought that would be a great way to keep kids engaged," Martin said. "We put together a summer program at both elementary schools as well as the middle school and high school. We had just over half of kids enrolled last year who signed up. There's a tie to academics, a loose tie to academics. It's that hands-on learning."

The camps have included an ocean camp, several music camps, nature journal, radio camp, space, bowling, soccer and even one called Catstravaganza. The summer program at Hillcrest will end with Fun in the Sun, where 180 students have signed up.

"It's really fun-based," Hernden said. "This is education-based, but we really just wanted them to have fun and get excited about coming to schools. A lot of the kids signed up for one camp, and they had so much fun they asked if they could do another camp."

After the challenges students, teachers and schools faced over the last year and a half, the state offered a grant program to help schools offer summer learning. North Bend jumped at the grant, and teachers and administrators worked to come up with the camp schedule.

Over the summer, the schools did not require students to wear masks, but they maintained the cohort effort, keeping camps separate from each other. Hand washing, sanitation and other efforts were also continued from the school year.

During the middle of the camps, Hillcrest got a new principal when Stacia Fletcher was hired. After arriving, she jumped right in to meet the students and staff working over the summer.

"Almost half of Hillcrest students are part of the summer camps, and the teachers have really shown up," Fletcher said. "After what was really a tough year, the teachers really stepped up. It's a really good way for teachers and students to reconnect."

On Tuesday, the students in the music theater camp closed out the week with a performance for their families. Each student introduced themselves before the group sang a variety of songs for the crowd outside.

Martin said between 400 and 500 elementary students participated in the camps. Another new camp is scheduled this month to prepare incoming kindergarten students for class. Those camps will begin August 16, and any student enrolled in kindergarten can participate.

"I would love to have every incoming kindergartener have the opportunity," Martin said.

Martin said the grant the district received was a three-year grant, meaning the summer camps are likely to return over the next two summers.

"We really tried to appeal to students' interest in non-traditional means," Martin said.

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