For some Great Falls Public School students, school did not end on June 3,2022. Many students were fortunate to participate in a variety of summer camps for two weeks led by GFPS teachers and staff.
Across the district in the weeks of June 6-10 and June 13-17 GFPS elementary schools held academic summer camps. While academics and closing the learning gaps were the focus, principals, teachers, and students would agree that having fun while learning was front and center.
Elementary students learned interesting facts and information through themes such as camping, zoo, rainforest, ocean, space, STEAM, art, IEFA, story books, spy investigation, international cooking, robotics, and Montana outdoors.
Parents said that kids loved it!
Planning, preparing and teaching for these summer camps required a tremendous amount of dedication, organization and effort. An average of 11 teachers at each school supported in some schools by a Foster Grandma, intervention teachers, and “junior helpers” answered the call to provide this wonderful opportunity for an average of 966 students a day.
Teachers reported, “We are excited to teach more hands-on projects that keep kids engaged longer and bring them back the next day.”
These camps were supported by one time only funds, so one of the challenges would be to support teaching like this in the future. Scheduling was also a challenge. Mrs. Sprague, principal at Meadowlark stated, “Some students couldn’t attend due to transportation and being in the middle of the day, others could not attend the entire 2 week camp (which was a requirement for us).” Mrs. Rausch, teacher at Whittier said, “The one challenge we had was that kids were used to getting breakfast at school. Fisher’s of Men stepped up and brought breakfast for all of our students every day of camp.”
Challenges were overcome and highlights of the camps were many. Mrs. Zobrak, principal at Giant Springs observed and reported, “ The older students worked for a week in the dark using glow in the dark paints; black lights, highlighters, and glowing face paint. They created robots and walked in moon shoes. They did multiple experiments and created environments. No one complained about writing about the fun activities they had done! K/1 students had breakfast made for them fresh every morning (pancakes); they were able to see a real camper; and hold live snakes; Grade 2/3 students tasted food from around the world.”
Principals Moore and Sprague would agree that highlights included seeing the excitement and hearing the laughter from both teachers and students. They said activities were so engaging and project-based that students wanted to keep going past the 2 weeks and even wanted to know if they could come back next year.
Students were sad it ended after 2 weeks. They probably would have gone all summer.
Teachers shared, “ We had so much fun teaching.”
Teacher Mrs. Rausch added, “The art strand painted paws on the sidewalk to assist with lining up for the bus. They will be so proud when everyone gets back to school and sees their hard work. Bravera Bank treated the K-2 kids to a special treat at Colored Snow to celebrate their last day of camp. They LOVED IT!”
One parent shared, “My (K) son is having the time of his life.”
Not only were these camps a fun learning experience for students and staff alike; they also supported GFPS’s goals of student achievement and healthy, safe and secure schools by focusing on academics and social emotional learning throughout all activities. For example students were measuring and applying geometry through art and cooking. Students wrote everyday. Students had lessons on friendship and acceptance. They engaged in cultural activities. The camps provided coveted additional learning time for students to explore their interests and to stay engaged in learning. “Student achievement increases when teachers can teach passionately. This summer camp promoted a healthy environment for staff and students. Let’s keep it going!”, emphasized Mr. Moore. Summer learning is more about growth and accomplishment than just keeping kids busy.
Parents talking about the summer school program said, “Thank you for doing this, my student loved it”, “I hope you are planning this again next year”, and “My child loved the discovery/inquiry style of learning.”
We would like to thank all GFPS principals, teachers, and staff who helped make Summer Camp 2022 a success.