Education

Fayette camps: Not your mother’s summer school

Teacher Vanessa Smotheras helped Zori Wyke-Sagne, 7, and Levi Hassloch, 7, during a class project at the YMCA camp held by Millcreek Elementary on Wednesday, June 20, 2016.
Teacher Vanessa Smotheras helped Zori Wyke-Sagne, 7, and Levi Hassloch, 7, during a class project at the YMCA camp held by Millcreek Elementary on Wednesday, June 20, 2016. lkiser@herald-leader.com

Samarion Williams, a rising second grader, liked most everything about the YMCA-sponsored camp he attended at Millcreek Elementary this summer to increase his academic skills, from the books he read each morning to the games he played in the afternoon to the field trips he took each week.

His response was exactly what Savannah Dickson, the director of the Y Readers Camp at Millcreek, was aiming for.

“I try to make sure that while the kids are getting an education, it doesn’t feel like summer school. It feels like a fun environment and they want to come everyday,’ Dickson said.

Millcreek was one of several Fayette County public schools that hosted summer camps. The camps ranged from one that focused on the Chinese language to camps that focused on closing the achievement gap between children of color, low-income children, disabled children and others.

The YMCA of Central Kentucky’s Y Readers Camp at Millcreek, James Lane Allen and Cardinal Valley Elementary schools was an effort to make sure students were reading on or above grade level by the third grade, said Jessica Berry, Vice President of Youth Development for the YMCA of Central Kentucky..

For six weeks at the Millcreek camp more than 20 rising first- and second- graders received 3 1/2 hours of literacy classes from certified teachers and 4 1/2 hours of enrichment, including arts and music, character development, physical activity, and nutrition education. The children also took a field trip each week to places such as the Explorium, Lexington’s children’s museum. There was no costs to parents, who Dickson said were informed of their children’s daily progress.

“We have data showing over the last two years our kids overall have shown gains,” said Berry.

At the same time that the Y Readers Camp was happening at Millcreek, school officials also hosted a camp at Millcreek to increase academic achievement for students in other grades, Berry said.

There were summer camps at several other schools, said district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall.

About 100 students in kindergarten through fifth grade spent two weeks immersed in authentic Chinese experiences and hands-on activities as part of the district’s STARTALK summer Chinese program held at Tates Creek Middle School.

Funded by a federal grant, the STARTALK sessions enabled the children to practice conversational communication in Chinese, interpretive listening, and speaking, according to an article on the district’s website.

At Northern Elementary, an article on the district website said, more than three dozen English Language Learners spent a month focusing on life skills at a summer camp funded by a grant from the organization Partners for Youth..

Other camps, many of which blended academics and enrichment activities and were sponsored by the district or community groups, were held at Harrison, Lansdowne, William Wells Brown and Breckinridge Elementary schools, said Deffendall.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

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