Camp Happened Too Fast

According to my biological clock, we should be playing dodgeball right now, slowly wrapping up the game so that we can bring the kids to lunch. I shouldn’t be sitting here, at the Tavern, leisurely drinking my coffee and sitting with friends. It just isn’t right.

Friday 7/26 was our Fairmount Park Elementary School science camp graduation ceremony and, honestly, I cried like a baby. I had my ups and downs with the kids, there’s no doubt about that, but I don’t think I ever realized just how much I would truly miss them when summer camp was over.

When we first started working at camp, I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like it. After all, I didn’t like the year that I worked in first grade, and these kids were only older—and, after my first day of work proved, not afraid to speak their mind.

Next year, I’m volunteering in a pre-kindergarten class, so I didn’t think I was going to enjoy working with rising fourth and fifth graders. Boy, was I wrong. I miss the kids more than anything.

Camp only ended a couple weeks ago and I already can’t wait to see them when the school year starts.

The students sitting in their seats for Graduation.

Goodbyes Aren’t Always Forever

Last Friday marked the last day of the College of Education’s Bridge to Success summer camp.

We ended with an awesome graduation where the kids presented their own raps on what they have learned this year.

How do you not miss the children you have taught for six weeks?!

While many of the other counselors held back tears it dawned on me that I would see almost all these kids in less than a month from now!

When a few of our consistent trouble makers came up to me and hugged me, begging me to have the camp last until the first day of school my heart almost broke. We were a great resource for the kids and I have no doubt in my mind that they had a better chance at becoming college-bound students.

After our lovely ceremony of the children “graduating” I was happily surprised to hear all of the parents talk about how proud they were of their children.

This is a card made from a student for all of the counselors and teachers at our Bridge to Success Camp!

This is a card made from a student for all of the counselors and teachers at our Bridge to Success Camp!

It felt so inspiring that I made a difference in these kids’ lives. One person really can make a difference.


Check out a little video about our camp via WUSF TV!

(Yes I am just as shocked that we had a tv station! Check out the other videos here.)

Fairmount Park Elementary students peer into a microscope during the Bridge to Success science camp with the help of Dr. Heather Judkins.

First College of Education Bridge to Success science camp a big success

More than 30 students from Fairmount Park Elementary School in St. Petersburg are wrapping up a six-week science camp at USF St. Petersburg this week that grew out of a partnership between the school and the College of Education.

The students peered into microscopes in a biology lab, toured a marine science research vessel, learned about shells during a trip to Fort De Soto Park, went kayaking and sailing from the USFSP Waterfront, snorkeled at Lassing Park and had a close encounter with birds of prey courtesy of the Audubon Society.

They also took swimming lessons, wrote in their journals, spent two hours a day working on math and science lessons and had fun along the way.

Many of them had never been on a boat before and most were not proficient swimmers. “The camp allows these students to have hands-on experiences they wouldn’t get at school or at home,” said Tiffani Vinson, Fairmount Park’s science coach, who earned a master’s degree at USFSP.

Our students doing science in the park

Our students doing science in the park

USFSP students worked as camp counselors and Fairmount Park teachers joined them as coaches.

The goal of the “Bridge to Success” camp is to keep the rising fourth and fifth grade students’ minds engaged with science and math during the long summer break so they will be ready when the fall semester begins next month.

It also showed the students what a university is like, said camp director Fred Bennett.

“It gives them the idea that college is possible, it’s not too far-fetched,” said Bennett.

Many of the students’ families have little experience with higher education. “They’re not necessarily thinking about college,” said Khana Riley, a Fairmount Park fourth-grade teacher. “I think this is doing a real good job of putting it in their minds.”

Fairmount Park Elementary students having fun during the Bridge to Success science camp.

Fairmount Park Elementary students having fun during the Bridge to Success science camp.

It also teaches the students leadership skills, including how to speak in public and behave in ways that set examples for other students, said Casey Maker, a 2012 USFSP graduate and third grade teacher at Fairmount Park. “We hope we are making some academic leaders here,” he said.

The USFSP education students who work as camp counselors also benefit, said Nikita Shivers, a fifth grade teacher at Fairmount who graduated from USFSP in 2008. “I think it’s a great collaboration,” she said.

And the Fairmount Park teachers benefit, too.

“These college students remind me of why I went into teaching in the first place,” said Sam Mincey, a fifth-grade Fairmount teacher. “It re-energizes me.”

Fairmount Park Elementary is considered one of Pinellas County’s most challenging schools because of high poverty rates and low FCAT scores. The USFSP College of Education worked closely with teachers and administrators at the school this year, sending faculty, staff and students to volunteer as tutors and coaches.

“We have become part of the Fairmount Park Elementary School family and look forward to continuing our collaborative partnership with the school during the forthcoming year as well as subsequent years,” said College of Education Dean Bill Heller “The partnership has really been very beneficial to both sides and it has been particularly great for our teacher education students and other students across the university as well.”

Student with a preserved Puffer Fish!

Fish and Salsa!

Fish and salsa?! No not the food, preserved fish and salsa dancing! Our students at the College of Education summer camp is coming to a close but it’s with a bang!

The students got to go into Teresa Greeley’s Marine biology lab and got to learn about different fish.

Something Fishy

Our groups at the Marine Biology Lab!

Our groups at the Marine Biology Lab!

The surprise for all of us was apparent when we walked through the door to the smell of rubbing alcohol and something fishy.

The students got to touch preserved fish of all kind. Lovely Ms. Greeley got the kids all gloved up and they got to learn a lot about a fish just by looking at it!

Now one thing I can tell you about our summer camp, our kids either love our hate our salsa lessons. Personally I love dancing and salsa with USFSP’s very own, Eloy Martinez, as our instructor I figured our kids would love it.

Finding your inner salsa

Our students in action learning some salsa steps!

Our students in action learning some salsa steps!

Well guess again, our group HATED salsa with more passion than I thought. It wasn’t until week five of summer camp that the kids finally started to take interest in learning salsa.

I was starting to get a little worried about their lack of enthusiasm but check out pictures below of our new salsa kings and queen!

Who knew a rare opportunity with FREE salsa lessons from a great teacher would be opposed by our children!

I’m happy because finally with the last two weeks of camp that our students finally found their inner salsa dancers.

Our Salsa Class!

Our Salsa Class!

Until next time,

Ms. L

Student looking through a scope and identifying different birds.

We Won’t Let it Rain on our Parade!

When a tropical storm closes in on our summer camp’s Fort De Soto beach day we refuse to let the possible rain chance stop us!

The night before our trip, I kept the news channels on to pray for the storm to veer away from our beach. The other counselors and I went to great lengths to create “rainy day activities” just in case but I was NOT going to bring my spirits down.

As I woke up that morning my hopes were still up even with a fifty percent rain chance!

I eagerly got my fellow counselor/blogger Allison and after hitting Starbucks to prepare for a long day, we drove with tension filling the car to Fairmount Park Elementary School.

Our students under a park shelter

Our students under a park shelter

We followed the bus full of happy children to Fort De Soto, our imminent doom waiting to set in.

You could read it on all of the counselors’ faces, we were preparing for the worse. The lovely tropical storm was headed straight for us and with our team at the waterfront, we waited for the call that the storm was coming.

It was hard to enjoy myself knowing the sad faces I would see when it started to pour, but I put on a smile and watched our children eat breakfast with all smiles.  They were so full of excitement and joy that I dreaded what came next.

The roaring boom shook the pavilion we were sitting under.

Our students doing science in the park

Our students doing science in the park

After about twenty minutes of rain with the grace of divine intervention blue skies were in sight!

With the dark rain clouds that had filled my head up with gloom gone, I was so happy to have the rest of the day full of fun!

The kids got to see the bird reserve at the park and get a chance to see all the marine life! We took core samples, and of course, swam for most of the day.

Despite being red with sunburn, it was a great day!

Until next time,

Ms. L