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Summer Camp helps kids be ready for school

David W. Jezek

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Photo: YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg.

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Summer is a much-cherished time for children and their families. The freedom of no homework, extra sleep and a more relaxed schedule are a much-needed break after the busy-ness of the school year.

However, research shows that the average student in grades 1-8 can lose up to 34% of the prior year’s learning during the summer break. And that loss can be even more depending on race and socio-economic status. One study even suggests that students who lose ground in one summer are more likely to also lose ground in subsequent summers. That means teachers must spend valuable time at the beginning of the school year bringing students back to where they were academically just months before.

According to Parenting Science, studies suggest summer learning loss can be prevented by engaging kids in summertime reading, math games, and hands-on STEM activities. But the benefits depend on making sure kids are truly stimulated – and having fun!

That idea is what the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg Summer Day Camp curriculum is built on. According to Ashley Carter, Summer Day Camp is designed to be fun, so much fun that the participants don’t even realize they are learning or using the skills they have learned in school.

“Our program includes STEM, arts and crafts, literacy, fitness, nutrition and team building,” Carter said. “But it’s all really based on having fun.”

Each of the 10 weeks of camp has a different theme. Kids work on fun, hands-on STEM experiments together as a team. They practice creativity through arts and crafts, they engage in team-building skills learning new sports and playing team-oriented games. Camp options at YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg include traditional summer day camp, day camp for teens, half-day sports camps and specialty camps that focus on specific topics or skills, like fishing, culinary arts and dance.

“We have lots of outdoor time and incorporate exercise and fitness, through fun games and activities outside,” said Carter. “And, all campers get swimming lessons each week, which is so important where we live.”

In addition, camps at the Y make learning about nutrition fun. “We teach kids about making healthy choices, even reading and understanding nutritional food labels. I hear so often from parents that they really appreciate that focus, and it isn’t something they expect their kids to learn at camp.”

Staff is trained to identify how to work with different types of kids to ensure it is enriching for all. They are also taught how to ensure all participants are safe.

“We go through pre-camp training that includes some basic child development, child safety, child abuse prevention and how to run camp so it’s a great experience,” Carter said.

She said the primary goal of camp is to give kids a fun way to spend the summer, but be ready to get back to learning in the fall with minimal learning loss. “It gives them structure, purpose and motivation for their days – the things they need to succeed academically during the school year.”

This is important for all kids, but even more so for children from lower-income families. The Y provides financial assistance to families who qualify to defer some of the cost for camp with the goal of getting the benefits of camp to as many kids as possible.

“My favorite part of camp is when I get to go participate with a group and see kids experience something they never have before – like catching a fish for the first time or swimming across the pool, she said. “But seeing their growth and excitement for learning and knowing they will take that with them when they go back to the classroom is what is most rewarding.”

To learn more about YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg Summer Camps, visit the website.

NEW THIS YEAR:

Specialty dance camps will take place at Lealman with themes such as Frozen, Knights & Princesses and Under the Sea, for 3-7 year olds.

Registration is now open, but spots are filling quickly. Learn more and register today!

David W. Jezek is President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg.

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