By Paige Lambert
Kids ran into a caterpillar-like line, listening to teacher Brandon Kelley give out instructions for the next game. Inside another group mimicked the music director, learning another song for the end of summer recital.
All of the hustle and bustle happens at the San Marcos Boys and Girls Club summer enrichment program.
The summer program is open to grades first through eighth. Parents pay $65 a week, which covers two meals each day and activities including field trips.
Each day the campers rotate through stations that focus on academics, fitness, music and art.
As the summer progresses, each age group builds on their skills and prepares for the end of summer talent show.
“That gives them an incentive to do well so they aren’t there singing just for singing sake,” Elton Fite, Club coordinator, said. “Kids need something to drive them. If they know they are going to have a recital that might drive them to take it seriously.”
Doing so also instills the value of goals and practicing into the campers, Fite said.
Fite said the Club focuses on fine arts to help beat the summer learning loss in a fun way. Multiple research sources show students lose two months of learning over the summer.
“It’s finding different ways to hide learning inside the games that we do anyways,” Fite said. “It’s very important to combat that and help kids do better academically as much as we can.”
During the tournaments, each group may have to tally points or count notes and measures in the music classes.
In the academic station, called brain gain, teachers such as Oscar Bando develop activities that encourage critical and creative thinking.
To develop creative writing, Bando showed a clip from “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” Afterwards, the campers wrote their own creative story.
Bando said doing these activities would help campers in the long run.
“I don’t think it’s that of a noticeable difference when they go to the next school year,” Bando said. “But over time it snowballs and it gets worse and worse over the years.”
The camp not only helps the campers academically, but prepares them for activities that may interest them in the future.
The program takes the campers on field trips to the movies, swimming and city parks. A majority of the trips are meant to apply what the campers learn in the stations, Fite said.
One art group went to the children’s park to see a mural commissioned by the city. They had a chance to contribute to the mural and learn about the local artist who created it.
“This is our way of bringing it to practicality for them, that there is an opportunity to make a living off this,” Fite said. “Now they can see that there is something they can do with this if they work at it.”
Kelley, who runs the fitness station, said he runs activities like the bounce relay to work on skills like coordination, reflexes and balance.
Many games are smaller versions of sports, like baseball.
“I also let them pick their teams so that they can learn to be leaders,” Kelley said. “And that’s really what I’m trying to teach them, to be leaders and have confidence.”
Bando said teachers in each station look for opportunities to encourage kids to break out of their shell and socialize.
During swim time, one of the kids was embarrassed to change into his swimsuit. Bando pulled the camper aside and pointed out how much fun he would have with his friends.
“Two minutes later he got in the pool,” Bando said. “I’ve noticed the kids are more outspoken and stand up when you show support like that.”
Even with all the structured activities and objectives, the day is wrapped around letting kids be kids, Fite said.
“That’s what Boys and Girls Club was founded on, giving kids the opportunity to interact with each other,” Fite said. “It’s all about building social confidence within the kids.”