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Virt. Vineyard

Summer camp keeping St. John children busy

By Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / June 17, 1998

LAPLACE – The thought comes to every parent’s mind as soon as the final school bell rings on the last day of classes. What will their children doduring the idle summer months? For almost a decade now, the St. John the Baptist Parish RecreationDepartment has provided a solution to that problem. Assistant directorDeborah Poche implemented the St. John Parish Recreation DepartmentSummer Camp and has seen it grow by leaps and bounds every year.

This year, over 250 children ages 4-12 registered for the camp which started June 9 and will run until July 31 at LaPlace Elementary. The costof the camp is $25 and includes free lunches and bus transportation.

Before and after care programs are also available.

As in year’s past, this year’s camp is run on the rotational method.

Campers ages 8-12 rotate from station to station with each room structured for a particular activity. This insures that campers willexperience a new activity in each room and the activities will not become repetitious.

Activities include indoor and outdoor games, low and high level games and arts and crafts. On Wednesdays and Fridays the campers are takenswimming, and on Fridays athletic tournaments are played between the classes. Fields trips to the aquarium, the zoo, the bowling alley and themovies have also been planned.

A new component of the camp this summer is the computer lab for ages 10-12. Laurie Thompkins, who teaches at LaPlace Elementary, said one ofthe goals of the lab is to help campers prepare for state assessment tests, such as the LEAP exam. Thompkins said the program has receivedgood cooperation from both retired LaPlace Elementary principal Lowell Bacas and his successor, Courtney Millet, in being able to use the lab.

The campers play games on the computers, but in order to advance in the games they must be able to answer academic questions. In one sciencegame, for example, campers must know how a lever works in order to advance.

“We call it learning through fun,” Phyllis Johnson, who teaches computers at East St. John High School, said. “It is a lot of fun, but they are learningat the same time.”Thompkins and Johnson are both certified instructors as is every staff member at the camp.

In C.A. Adams’ class, campers are learning a number of art activities suchas making collages and jewelry boxes. One of the activities they workedon recently was called “bird in a cage,” and students used string, balloons and cut-out paper birds to create a bird cage. The campers are encouragedto bring their creations home.

“It gives them the feeling they have accomplished something every day, especially the little children,” Donna Jackson, the program’s coordinator, said.

There is a smile on the face of every camper, who come from every part of the parish. Some, like the Schifflett triplets, have been attending thecamp for years.

Jackson said Poche saw the need for such a program to give youngsters something to do. The rates remain low so that parents can afford it.Jackson said the camp can also ensure parents that their youngsters are being well supervised while they are at work. Feedback from parents hasbeen very positive.

“It takes children off the streets,” Jackson said. “They have been inschool for the past nine months and are restless and this gives them some type of outlet.”

Photo: The St. John The Baptist Recreation Department summer camp offers avariety of activities for youngsters in the parish. Clockwise from left,Denzel Cammon, Lacey Banks and Ian Robinson play follow the leader behind pre-kindergarten teacher Deidre Poche. Brennan Zeringue goes downa slide during the camp’s outdoors activities. In one of the camp’s newestfeatures, computer teacher Phyllis Johnson works with Katie Harrilal in the computer lab.

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