Denair students and staff loving camp-based summer enrichment program

June 15th, 2021

There is way more activity than usual this summer around Denair Unified’s four campuses, thanks to enrichment programs and cool weeklong camps targeted at students of all ages.

Nearly 500 K-12 students are participating in various summer programs, which began June 7 and continue through July 2. Although there are some traditional academic classes for high school students who need to make up credits toward graduation, most of this year’s program is targeted at younger students.

The goals?

“Have fun. Build relationships. Light academics,” explained Superintendent Terry Metzger, who empowered her principals and their teachers to come up with fun, activity-based offerings that would appeal to a broad cross-section of students – many of whom were forced to learn via computer at home for more than a year because of the COVID pandemic.

The result is fewer hard-core math, English and science courses that require students to sit in the classroom and more interactive weeklong camp opportunities that build new skills, interests and curiosity.

Want to learn to fish? There’s a camp for that, complete with a chaperoned visit to a local lake.

Interested in animals? Try Dogs 101, which offers insight into the behavior and different breeds of man’s best friend. Or another class on the many species of animals found in the wild.

Into science and technology? Drone camp might be just the thing. Or a camp based on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

There are three floral courses, from the basics to creating arrangements for weddings. There is a culinary adventure camp to introduce cooking to kids as well as camps on gardening, life on a farm and shop skills.

For those with an artistic bent, there are camps on origami and doodling, music and learning folkloric dances from Indian and Colombia.

There is an America the Beautiful camp to teach patriotic songs and help students appreciate American symbols.

And there are plenty of sports camps, from softball, volleyball and basketball to dodgeball and recess games and strength training. “It has been absolutely amazing,” said Laura Cardenas, the learning director at Denair Elementary Charter Academy who has helped coordinate more than 30 camps across all grade levels. “The kids are really loving it and the staff is really enjoying it.”

She said students of like ages are grouped together in classes of no more than 20, though many are less than that. Students were required to register in advance and prioritize which camps they most wanted to attend. Many of the more popular camps have wait lists.

“The kids are excited,” said Cardenas, who is teaching the Baile dance class. “They come home excited and then wake up the next day and can’t wait to come to school again.”

Patty Morrissey, who has a small group of third- through fifth-graders in her America the Beautiful class, said she’s always wanted to be able to teach something like that.

“I thought it would be fun,” she said. “Kids need to realize what a great country we live in.”

She introduces students to patriotic songs like “America the Beautiful” and “This Land is Your Land,” and also focuses on U.S. symbols like the flag and bald eagle. Anything with a red, white and blue theme.

Ag teacher Holli Jacobsen put her life on a farm students to work building planter boxes that eventually will produce fruits and vegetables that will feed into the district’s food program.

In all, there are 262 students enrolled in summer enrichment courses at DECA, 57 at Denair Middle School and 26 at Denair High. That’s on top of 118 high school students who are in the credit recovery program. Camps and classes run from 8 a.m. to noon each day.

Metzger saw enough enthusiasm from students and staff in the first week that she’s already thinking ahead to next summer – when the COVID crisis hopefully has passed. She would like to see the enrichment program continue.

“It’s in the budget for next year,” she said. “I can see already it’s very popular with students and staff.”

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