Basking alongside a pool, reuniting with close friends and making memories to last a lifetime – What most people call a vacation is, for a group of Bulloch County children this summer, simply Thursday.
A tradition since 1969, Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department’s summer children’s camp kicked-off this week, offering kindergarten through 5th grade students a fun and educational way to spend their school-free days.
Split into two camps – Camp Cherokee for pre-K through 1st grade students and Camp Tomahawk for older children – the annual program provides students with a variety of activities and learning opportunities throughout the nine-week break between school years.
In 2011, approximately 120 kids – about 60 in each camp – will take part in the summer tradition.
“We are a recreational-based camp and we are all about having fun,” said Joy Deal, Program Supervisor for the camp. “We also have educational activities in the form of various games.”
“Kids can come in the morning and stay as late as 6 p.m.,” said Sarah Lindner, a Site Coordinator for Camp Tomahawk. “The camp basically serves as a full school day. The kids can come to have a fun day, learn, be with friends and meet new people.”
The theme of this year’s camp, “When I grow up, I wanna be…,” will allow children to learn about a different profession – and/or information pertinent to the field – each week. The campers participate in themed activities (art projects and games) and take part in field trips to reinforce the new information.
“We want the kids to have a fun, enriching summer through the activities we have planned,” said Deal. “It is our goal at the Parks and Recreation Department to offer quality childcare that is not just babysitting. We want to create a fun, educational, physically active and great environment for kids.”
Thursday at Mill Creek Elementary School, the children of Camp Tomahawk spread throughout the camp to perform a multitude of activities that compose their usual day.
After a quick trip to Splash in the ‘Boro – which the campers will make every Tuesday and Thursday for two hours of play at the park – children took turns participating in various sections of the camp.
In the cafeteria, now the Kids’ Club, students played games on the Nintendo Wii, worked to solve puzzles, faced-off in games of foosball and crafted art projects.
As a tie-in with this week’s theme, “Astronaut/Scientist,” the campers painted their own Styrofoam planets – including a miniature Earth.
Down the hall, another group of children filled the gymnasium to run, play basketball, hula-hoop and perform other physical fitness activities.
In the computer lab, children played educational games and, as part of the weekly theme, designed and painted aliens.
After 45 minutes in a select location, campers switched to another.
“This summer, we want to try teaching the kids as much as we can, without them knowing it. We have a lot of activities that are fun, but educational,” said Lindner. “We basically want to create an overall experience through which the kids learn to interact with each other, have a good time and learn various life skills.”
Earlier in the week, students ventured to Georgia Southern University to view a space exhibit. As part of future themes, weekly field trips will have students visiting 119 Chops (Chef theme), George L. Smith State Park (Park/Forest Ranger theme), Statesboro Police and Fire Departments (Police/Firefighter theme), and Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta (Veterinarian theme).
According to Deal, the camp “offers a variety of educational activities to enforce the things students are learning during the school year.”
With one week in the books, campers are offering only rave reviews about the program, said Lindner.
“It seems like the kids are having a really great time. When it is time for pick-up, a lot of them don’t want to leave and tell their parents that they aren’t ready to go home yet,” she said. “That’s what we want. We want the children to leave here, believe Camp Tomahawk is awesome, and want to come back.”
Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454