Concrete Summer Learning Adventure
By Tyler Chisolm, Graduate M.Ed. Student, Cohort 13
Time flies when you’re having fun… and learning? The Concrete Summer Learning Adventure (CSLA), which wrapped up on August 31st, was another huge success for the Concrete community helping to fight summer learning loss and hunger while promoting healthy habits, outdoor exploration, literacy, and, above all, fun! In the second year running, CSLA served 58 students ranging from incoming first graders to incoming sixth graders with the majority of students in the 6 to 8-year-old range. Here’s a peek at some of the fun that was had this summer:
Summer Learning Loss and Literacy
Camper works on his literacy skills as he racks up reading minutes
Of the 58 students participating in CSLA, 88% either improved or maintained their reading level after participating in almost 36 hours of interactive literacy activities, including the ever popular Sight Word Animal Relays! Campers were even encouraged to read outside of camp with the promise of a bicycle-blended blueberry milkshake when reaching a cumulative total of 5,000 minutes of reading on the READ-O-METER. This 5,000-minute goal was accomplished (and then some) with help from Page Ahead [http://pageahead.org/], which donated enough books for each student to choose and keep four books at their own reading level. One camper showed her appreciation, and need, by saying “now I can read at home too!” The literacy education was supplemented by AWE [http://www.awelearning.com/], an interactive computer-based learning system, one of which is currently available at the Upper Skagit Library in Concrete [http://www.upperskagit.lib.wa.us/]. And speaking of the library, library director Brooke Pederson was a big hit when she came to camp to read books pertaining to each week’s theme.
Hunger and Healthy Habits
Campers enjoyed trying new healthy foods!
Campers were well fed with two meals per day (totaling 1,502 meals for the four weeks) and a healthy snack, such as bicycle-blended fruit smoothies, in between. The food for Thursday’s trip up to the Marblemount Ranger Station was even donated by Five B’s Bakery, a new local gluten-free bakery, and snacks of the biggest blueberries you’ll ever see were donated by Cascadian Farm! With all of this healthy food comes picky eaters, however students were encouraged to try new things with “Adventurous Eater Bingo” for prizes like pencils, carabineers, erasers, and more! And we didn’t just eat healthy food; we made it too! Each week, campers participated in a Culinary Corner activity in which they were able to help cook granola, pizzas (with dough donated by Annie’s Pizza), humus, and coleslaw. All of this eating and cooking was supplemented by field trips to Angele Cupples Community Garden and Blue Heron Farm where students were able to make farm-to-table connections by seeing, harvesting, and tasting food that wasn’t already processed and packaged. And the fun didn’t stop at our stomachs! As part of a campaign to promote healthy eating in the cafeteria campers helped paint fruit and veggie murals with the help of volunteers from the Northwest Museum of Art. The students were glowing with pride when they presented their artwork to their families at Family Fun Day, with one boy even stating that he would always sit facing the cauliflower he painted!
Concentrating hard as she paints her masterpiece!
Outdoor Exploration and Enrichment
As part of the partnership with the National Park Service, each week campers made the journey up to North Cascades National Park’s Marblemount Ranger Station to learn about their public lands and their local ecosystem. At the Ranger Station students had the opportunity to hang out with National Park Rangers and participate in activities such as hiking on the Cow Heaven trail, visiting with the Trail Crew horses, learning about wilderness at the Wilderness Information Center (thanks to fellow C13 grad Elissa Kobrin), planting native plants from the Native Plant Nursery, and much more! Throughout the four weeks, students completed activities from the Wilderness Explorer Junior Ranger workbook and on the last Thursday in Marblemount each camper became Official Wilderness Explorer Junior Rangers by reciting the Junior Ranger Pledge with Ranger K.J. and receiving a certificate and a patch. In the camper survey done as part of the CSLA evaluation process, many campers cited Thursday’s trip to Marblemount as their favorite part of the entire camp!
Ranger K.J. shows a camper lichen on a tree.
Working hard on the Wilderness Explorer Junior Ranger book
And the exploration didn’t stop at Marblemount, when not participating in the 36 hours of literacy activities; campers were engaged in enrichment activities that ranged from learning about their natural environment, to art projects, and even an explorative field trip around their community! As part of the environmental education curriculum, each week of camp had a theme relating to the natural world.
The theme for week 1 was “Sprouting Relationships” where students planted a plant of their own, learned about the plant cycle, and observed how their plant grew over the course of CSLA.
Week 2’s theme was “Exploring Farm Friends” where students learned about animals when farm animals (goats, chickens, and rabbits) visited camp and through an animal skull exploration.“Investigating Water Worlds” was the theme for Week 3 and students learned about the water cycle as well as salmon with the help of Lucy from Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group. As part of the “Water World” theme campers also tie-dyed pillowcases, which was a hit for all those involved!
Our final week wrapped up with “Healthy People, Healthy Ecosystems” where we took a trip around Concrete visiting the Concrete Chamber of Commerce, the Concrete Museum, Five B’s Bakery, and the Community Garden before heading back to school. The highlight of the last week was definitely Family Fun Day where students’ families were invited to camp for some fun, a cookout, and an awards ceremony.
Graduate Student Tyler Chisholm plays an observation game with her group
But where do I, as a graduate student, fit into all of this? As part of my summer leadership track as a Volunteer Interpretive Ranger with the National Park Service, I had the opportunity to help with everything from planning camp logistics to writing four weeks of environmental education curriculum! And that was all before camp even started! My favorite part of this leadership track was actually getting to see and implement the curriculum that we created. I was able to be at camp with the kids 3 out of the 4 days a week, teaching, assisting, and creating relationships with each individual student. The Concrete Summer Learning Adventure was definitely a heartwarming experience and I admit to almost shedding a few tears as their bus pulled away from the Marblemount Ranger Station on the last day of camp. Although it was certainly stressful at times, I would definitely do it all again for the hugs, smiles, and the “Ranger Tyler! Ranger Tyler! Ranger Tyler! [me: What?!] Yesterday, I found a bug.” and other very important off-the-wall comment moments. I am surely going to miss my little buddies!
The Concrete Summer Learning Adventure accomplished significantly more than we were able to show through testing, surveys, and statistics. We gave these children a safe, nurturing environment to grow and learn, which is sometimes lacking during the summer months. Throughout CSLA, I asked campers what they would be doing if they weren’t at camp. Many students replied with something along the lines of sitting at home in front of the television, video game, or computer or being passed from babysitter to relative, to older sibling as their parents juggled a full work schedule among other obligations. While meeting our goals proves the success of the CSLA on paper, the true success was written in the smiling faces of the happy children given opportunities that they would not normally have access to.
The Concrete Summer Learning Adventure wouldn’t have been possible without help from our sponsors, volunteers, and staff. Although many are mentioned throughout this blog, I’d like to personally say thank you to everyone who helped out this year. We couldn’t have done it without your assistance
- 4-H members
- 5b’s Bakery
- Angele Cupples Community Garden
- Annie’s Pizza
- Blue Heron Farm
- Cascadian Farm
- Community Action of Skagit County
- Concrete Farm to School
- Concrete Heritage Museum
- Concrete Resource Group
- Concrete School District
- Museum of Northwest Art
- National Park Service
- North Cascades Institute
- Perk’s Espresso
- School’s Out Washington
- Skagit Community Foundation
- Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group
- Upper Skagit Library
- United General Health District #304 Community Health Outreach Program
- Western Washington University