Camp is flying by. Our last post highlighted some of the awesome activities that have been going on; this post will detail other recent camp developments.
After a whirlwind first day back on July 2nd, our staff was ready to jump in. Jump into camp and jump into the pool, that is. Tuesday, July 3rd marked our first day of swim lessons. On Monday, after collecting bathing suit sizes for virtually thirty kids who didn’t have bathing suits at home, we trekked to Wal-Mart and purchased about 30 children’s bathing suits. At the end of math class on Tuesday, campers changed into their bathing suits, and boy did they look cute. When the bus came at 12:20 sharp to pick us up, the campers could hardly contain their excitement. Picture fifty campers, bathing suits on and towels in hand, together on a yellow school bus on the way to the YMCA singing the BRYTE camp song. It is truly fabulous chaos. The first day of swim lessons was a bit hectic, as the majority of our campers did not know how to swim-but it was fun and productive nonetheless. If you ask virtually any camper their favorite part of camp, you can bet that they will say swimming.
This year at BRYTE camp, we have hired three high school refugee youth junior counselors to be an integral part of camp and the classroom. These three junior counselors, Destin, Achut, and Tanka, two out of three BRYTE tutees themselves, are each paired with a literacy teacher and a math teacher. Each week, in addition to assisting teachers in class, they are required to plan a total of an hour of their own curriculum, 30 minutes in their literacy class and 30 minutes in their math class. With support from Jesse and I as well as their counselor pairs, they have come up with some solid lessons. Tanka, who works in literacy in our youngest math group, has taught several great lessons focusing on phonics, letter writing, word to picture matching, and more. Overall, the junior counselors have been a huge asset to the classroom experience and to camp as a whole. We still have a ways to go to create the perfect lesson plan, but we are making progress. Every Monday during math, Jesse and I do individual check-ins with the junior counselors, which is the time we have to really hone in on lesson planning skills. In addition, on Wednesdays, Jesse and I spend an hour with the junior counselors doing programming with them that is specifically tailored to skill building and college access. In the past weeks, we have worked on resume building, life mapping, and currently, we are working on introducing the Common Application. This coming week, we are going to brainstorm potential college essay topics as well as work on filling out the “Common App.” Next year, we are hoping to go into even more depth with the junior counselor program.
Additionally, we have been going strong in our workshops. From science to sports, to dance, to music, arts and theater, we’ve got it all. Each workshop is led by two full time staff, and each week is different. In science, the youngest students have built volcanoes, created their own habitats out of school materials, and have even simulated a “dirt and worm” environment complete with pudding, gummy worms, and oreos. In music, we are continuing to get prepared for our final camp performance, in which we will perform our rendition of “Down in the River to Pray.” Our theater workshop is currently plowing through theater games, from “What are you Doing?” to “Pass the Energy.” They too are getting prepared for this Thursday’s big performance. This week in sports, one of our counselors, Jessie, will be simulating the Olympics with her older group of students—it’s sure to be a blast. There is never a dull moment at BRYTE camp.
One of the most exciting parts of BRYTE camp for me is watching our counselors teach their classes. I recently stopped in Gayatri’s literacy class and had a very interesting experience. Gayatri’s literacy class has most of the oldest students at camp. When I walked in, the class was reading the book Crab Moon, in honor of the fifth week’s theme, nature week. In the book, the protagonist, Daniel, finds a horseshoe crab on the beach that needs his help, and in the book, he works until he saves it. It was incredible to observe Gayatri’s class reading this book together. Not only were they adorably huddled around her on the floor engrossed in the story, but they were asking such poignant questions. Ayda, one of our oldest campers, was so intrigued by the plot, that as the book was ending, she asked Gayatri, “What can we do about the people that are dying in the world? Why do humans act the way they do?” After some thoughtful discussion, Gayatri encouraged Ayda to continue exploring the answers to these questions. At BRYTE camp, critical thinking is never in short supply.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more—including details from our final performance and celebration!