ch year when the school year is officially over we host our week of school’s out/ summer’s here Transition Camp. This is a special weeklong experience that is exclusive in its audience: only open to children who have attended Lake and Park at some point in the past. The reason being? Because we are all just as comfortable as can be—kicking off our shoes, so to speak, and just being together. Boys and girls from across the grades spend whole days together. Camp begins at nine and ends at five but children want more when five o’clock rolls around. Often Transition Camp begins with breakfast, making this “home away from home” cozier still. Toast and jam and cold cereal is served long into the morning. Children engage in Lego play while others read comics, still others draw and another group works with the Big Blocks. Transition Camp truly is the bridge between school and the vacation that is just around the corner.
This year’s highlights were many, but some that stand out for me:
Everyone downstairs on the last day of Transition Camp enjoying an ample pancake breakfast while the Trike Room was the scene of roller skating and skate boarding. We all watched an impromptu talent show as children showed off their newly acquired or recently honed skills. Children helped with cleaning up the “restaurant” at the end of the pancake breakfast—a meal that went on all morning. Quynh and Tom kept the grill hot. Autumn Taylor Roff found her niche in working with the dishwasher and taking last minute orders, true restaurant style. Clare Conrad and Lee Seese from the church office joined in when new customers were sought after.
At the very end of the very last day I think fondly of Quynh’s lovely reading of Rosemary Well’s little library called The Bunny Planet. A fictional account of rabbit children getting a retake on days that had not gone so well, our children’s amazing scope of knowledge came out strong as children provided similes for the repeat experience: time warp, black hole, alternative reality!
The following week we welcomed Kathi Titus and her colleague Mary as they shepherded four dogs up the stairs each morning. Children new to Lake and Park joined with us in learning the basics of puppy training. By the end of the week, children were showing their prowess at getting dogs to sit, come, heel. The interaction between children and animals is a powerful thing to observe; this week long focus allowed children ample time to interact with the dogs.
In the afternoons, Grant and I opened the North Room doors to the medieval world of Chaucer’s tales. After learning about the construct of the tales—a trip from an inn to a sacred shrine at a cathedral several days hence and back again—we looked into the Pardoner’s Tale as our beginning point. Art projects and free play in block building as well as a “full on” knightly tournament added to our understanding of the tales and times. On our final day, we simulated the role of pilgrims by entering into the church sanctuary—a perfect place for Thomas Becket’s shrine. Upon leaving, we were wearing the traditional pilgrim cockle shell. We then walked to our own Tabard Inn (Tutta Bella) in Columbia City. After feasting we ended our time together at the Columbia City playground. Several of our group—Rose and George— are actually journeying to Canterbury Cathedral in August; we hope they let us all know about it on their return.
The following week, we again offered a morning and an afternoon component. Grant and I worked once more as a team throughout the day. In the mornings we engaged a group of children in learning all kinds of backyard games. Grant taught a game called Danish Rounders which offers beginners a way to learn how to engage in the basics of organized sport. Particularly apropos of kickball and baseball, it teaches how to run the bases in a way that allows each child to proceed at her/his own speed. We played hide and seek and sardines, its inverse, sardines. We learned to play hopscotch and made our own on the patio. It came to our attention that hopscotch began as an exercise that the Roman Legionnaires undertook to keep agile and light of foot. They performed wearing armor. A highlight for both of us as teachers was to see how the youngest children were able too join in to teacher directed games with such ease. One morning, while spending time in the Mount Baker Park meadow grasses, we gathered for a quiet break and watched a butterfly make its rounds among us, landing on Harper again and again.
In the afternoons, a final camp was held—Insects and Other Backyard Creatures. We took the time to take a close look at those small animals that live among us—worms and spiders, ladybugs and bees. We used Christina Rossetti’s poem as a touchstone for the class. We learned about animals in order of their complexity—from the simple earthworm to the to the arthropod. Several highlights have to be mentioned: Ardin’s mother gave us six boxes of ladybugs which we released one happy afternoon at Triangle Park. Ted made a “ladybug playground” for them from found objects; children young and old worked together. While learning about spiders, we read Anansi folktales from Africa. (A trickster character, children compared him with other tricksters they have known: Hermes, Loki,Bre’r Rabbit, Coyote, Raven. We acted out the story of Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock. Each child participated in our impromptu theater, each one making a signifiant contribution through drama to all of us watching the performance. We ended the week at the Butterfly House at the Science Center, Tom joined us for this culminating field trip where we looked at butterflies and many other insects with the understanding that our week’s study afforded us.
Hurt No Living Thing
Hurt no living thing, Ladybird, nor butterfly, Nor moth with dusty wing, Nor cricket chirping cheerily, Nor grasshopper so light of leap Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat, Nor harmless worms that creep.