This week was the first week of Summer Day Camp at Community for New Direction. This week has been so amazing, stressful, chaotic, fulfilling, challenging, and, most importantly, successful. On Monday, we had around 175 kids show up for camp at West Mound Elementary School and the numbers have only been increasing since, with our capacity being 243 kids.
For me, each day starts at 8:00am at the East side office. I check my van and watch kids as they eat their breakfast, provided for them by CND. Once breakfast is over, I drive about 15-20 kids over to West Mound Elementary to start camp at 9:00am.
Once the kids have all eaten breakfast and announcements have been made, everyone goes to their assigned groups. Each group has 2 teachers and 2 youth workers to oversee the kids. CND’s teacher to student ratio is about 1:10, with the requirement being 1:15. Each group gets their own classroom and bus to utilize for whatever activities they plan for themselves. The groups also choose a group name and decorate/arrange their classes as they wish. I really appreciate the freedom CND gives to its teachers to make their own curriculum (with approval) to make each child’s experience unique and fun.
Groups are expected to do at least 20 minutes of reading in the first half of the day. This is also time that can be spent on surveys, AOD-V education, Social/Emotional Learning, or researching and preparing for the groups’ cultural projects! There is one whole day dedicated to cultural presentations that the kids work on for the first couple of weeks of camp. This year’s projects are on Spanish speaking countries.
Lunch is provided by CND at 11:30. After lunch, the groups may do their planned recreational activities. So far I have seen groups go to the library, metro parks, watching movies in the West office (which is across the street), make slime and other crafts, and have tennis camp! Most activities are planned by the teachers, but some are planned for the whole camp to attend, like skating at Skate Zone 71 on Thursday.
The kids are dismissed to leave on their buses or wait for parents to pick them up at about 2:15. Dismissal was very chaotic on the first day of camp and I was determined to help make it a little more organized for everyone. I discussed the issues and concerns each teacher had about dismissal and gathered ideas from everyone to present to Ms. Susie (camp supervisor). I stayed late one day after camp to meet with Ms. Susie and another teacher to discuss how we can make dismissal a little more organized the next day. She was thrilled by the initiative we were making and let us take the reigns on the project. It is very crucial to make sure dismissal goes smoothly everyday so we know every kid is accounted for and gets home safe to their guardians. By the end of the week, we have been able to dismiss all the kids on time and in an orderly manner.
All-in-all, this week was everything I expected it to be and more. I still find myself going home at the end of the day thinking about the interactions I had with the kids and how happy I am to be helping CND with this amazing program. I was able to work with a group of people that had just as much energy about the situation to fix a problem no one had even asked us to solve, which was very fulfilling.
One of my favorite parts of this whole experience has been interacting with the kids. I have kids randomly walking up to hug me, because I had a nice conversation with them the day before, and I don’t even remember their names! It feels good to be someone these kids can come to if they ever needed anything. I can’t wait to do it all over again next week.