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In 11th year, Camp Imagination Station focuses on literacy, hands-on activities

Posted July 17

— Ceci Monti has spent each summer the last four years reading books before making ice cream or smoothies.

Ceci, 7, said she enjoys coming back each summer because it's fun, and she and the other kids, "do literacy a lot." But this is her last summer at the summer camp at Gwinnett Technical College's D. Scott Hudgens Jr. Early Education Center as she moves to second grade this fall.

"We can play in all the rooms and we do literacy a lot which is where we get to read a book and do something that we act out the book sort of," she said.

When asked what she thought about it being her last summer at a camp she enjoys, Ceci said it was, "Sad, but at least I stayed here to do it," then added, "If we make ice cream, we get to eat it. If we make a smoothie, we get to drink it."

Camp Imagination Station, which is in its 11th year, is for children entering kindergarten through second grade and it runs from 7 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. through July 21. It includes weekly field trips and special activities, water play, an Atelier-Art studio, a dramatic play village, an inventors warehouse, multi-media labs and a game room. Cost is $180 per week or $50 per day, which includes meals and field trips.

Last week, the field trip was to the Center for Puppetry Arts. Other field trips include visits to the Interactive Neighborhood for Kids in Gainesville, Stars and Strikes and Fernbank.

"It's keeping them engaged, keeping them learning in the summer," said Rebecca Olson, the director of the center. "Everything they do is learning. That's the thing about kids, it could be fun and still learning."

With activities divided into four rooms, Olson said they aim to give kids more freedom than they get during the school year. They also offer water day each Friday, which includes pools and sprinklers, and there is a talent show at the end of the summer, something parents are invited to.

"We want kids to really be engaged in hands-on activities," Olson said, and added that technology is mostly scarce around the center save for some occasional iPad use. "It's keeping them engaged, socializing with one another. That's really important. Our whole center is teaching children to get along with one another. Not to say technology isn't important, but they get so much of that everywhere else now."

Child-adult ratio is about 10:1 or less, Olson said, including 5:1 for field trips. Last week, for example, there were eight adults with about 35 kids. She said the staff pays attention to each child as the developmental range between pre-K and second grade can be wide. That's one reason why the center dropped the camp down from having third-graders, something it did its first year.

With several activities geared around literacy, Olson said reading is important for kids of all ages, especially before the critical development jump from second grade to third grade. Olson said the literacy labs are designed to keep kids' attention in reading.

"With young children, especially kids that are just finishing pre-K, it's about keeping them interested in that," she said. "The biggest thing is continuing to make it fun. You don't want reading to be a chore or boring. We want it to be an exciting thing for kids. Here, we especially want to make sure we're doing that."

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