CONTACT: Rev. Dr. John Regan, Executive Minister email@example.com 405.341.3544
So, what is an owl’s favorite kind of book? A “Hoooooo-dunnit!” This was one of the riddles we asked our campers at our inaugural Jaguar Summer STEAM Camp. Why? Because this year’s camp is designed around the children’s’ novel HOOT written by Carl Hiaasen; the story of a group of kids who band together to help save a group of burrowing owls who live on a plot of land set to be developed into a pancake restaurant.
In collaboration with Ida Freeman Elementary, we developed this camp to help children catch up on some of the learning they may have lost during the first month of summer and inspire them to continue learning during the last weeks of summer before launching into 5th grade. It coincides with National Summer Learning Week, a celebration dedicated to elevating the importance of keeping kids learning, safe, and healthy every summer, so they return to school in the fall ready to succeed in the year.
Our pilot project has 17 campers AND 30 adult and 2 teen volunteers. In our morning sessions we have Reading and STEM learning experiences that are led by professional teachers. Campers have made parachutes and measured drop rates, dissected the pellets of barn owls, and played a game of fractional dominoes. They’ve had multiple opportunities for physical exercise including tai chi, yoga, basketball and a designated PE time. We have enjoyed owl smores, pancake sausages on a stick, and delicious food prepared by our kitchen staff. Each child received a free t-shirt, their own copy of the book Hoot, and lots of attention and tender loving care! We are grateful for the many supplies, gift cards, and cash that allowed us to launch this camp.
The highlight of the week for me has been watching our volunteers leading these children into the joyous experience of learning together in community. We've given them the wonder of using new technology to create art through the tools of a computer and 3-D printer; the joy of learning fundamentals of reading music and playing the drums and a ukulele; and the freedom in an Arts and Crafts space to create just what they wanted, while being supported and celebrated simply for trying! We all are created in the image of God so all of us have this incredible potential to become loving and creative creatures. Most of us are simply looking for people who will take the time to not only inspire us but to go with us on this journey to find out who we are and what we might become.
Not once this week have I heard “this is boring.” Instead campers have said “this is harder than I thought it would be”—yoga, “this is cooler than I thought it would be”—owl pellets, “this isn’t what I thought it would be," “is it really time to leave?”, and "can I come back next year?” Others reported hearing “This is the best week of the summer!" and “I wish camp was all summer long!” What better testimony could there be to the joy and curiosity we have sparked through this new camp?
The greatest teachers in our own personal journeys were rarely the smartest or most brilliant people we met in our lives. They were, however, almost always people who were enthusiastic about what they were learning. Our leaders have inspired these campers, and given them the generous gifts of time and attention. Thanks be to God.