Students have fun while learning & building soft skills at Peoria Unified’s EdCamp - AZEdNews
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Students have fun while learning & building soft skills at Peoria Unified’s EdCamp

Students Make Slime With A Staff Member At EdCamp At Frontier Elementary School In Peoria Unified School District. Photo By Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews

EdCamp students at Frontier Elementary did projects where they built on their planning, creating, problem-solving, and collaboration skills this summer.

Students created music videos, built fairy gardens, played charades, had sensory activities opportunities, made slime, took part in a bubblemania activity and more.

“They also get to do fun things that are educational, but not so much in that structured school setting – more fun and more engaging,” said Jennifer Pettit, a teacher and site leader at Frontier Elementary in Peoria Unified School District.

This year, 201 students took part in Peoria Unified’s EdCamp at three different school sites, said Ashley Worrell, director of Peoria Unified School District’s before- and after-school program KidZone.

AZEdNews video: See what Peoria Unified’s EdCamp at Frontier Elementary is like

Video edited by Renée Romo/ AZEdNews and shot by Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews

EdCamp provides engaging learning activities for students when school is not in session, and it grew from KidZone’s before- and after-school program that started in 2014 to meet a need for students attending the district’s nine elementary schools in Glendale.

EdCamp students work on summer-long and “week-long projects where they’re really practicing skills like planning, creating, problem-solving, and collaboration,” Worrell said.

Instead of a large group of students doing activities in a large space like the multipurpose room or cafeteria, EdCamp students are separated by age groups or grade levels into smaller groups of about 25 students in separate classrooms, and all KidZone/ EdCamp staff are employees of the Peoria Unified School District, Worrell said.

“We strive to have high quality environments with center areas in every single classroom so you have the ability to give kids access to the building center and the art center where they can be creative and kind of lead their own activities,” Worrel said. “They tell us what they’re interested in, and staff is able to build off that.”

That helps students develop a sense of “more community, more closeness and they really build relationships with each other and the staff,” and provides “students with a place to grow their social skills, collaboration, and working together as a team,” Pettit said.

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EdCamp students practice their social skills as they play a card game at Frontier Elementary. Photo by Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews

EdCamp students take part in creative activities, supervised time in the computer lab, gross motor activities, crafts, and more. Summer EdCamp focuses on supporting children’s communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking skills. In addition, Peoria Unified partners with Main Event, The Arizona Science Center, Great Skate, Pinspiration, The Rush Fun Park, Mad Science and Carter’s Farm to provide both on-site and off-site field trips.

This summer, KidZone also partnered with the transportation department to ensure that students are provided transportation from summer school to an EdCamp location.

What students say about EdCamp

Each person in the older student group at Frontier Elementary was part of a team and took part in challenges, said Madeline, an EdCamp student.

“For Crab Soccer we had to do a certain pose on the ground and kick the ball to get it to score,” Madeline said. “For How Strong is Spaghetti, we used spaghetti and tape to make it strong enough to hold books. For Scooter Relays, we used scooters and tried to make it back around a cone fast enough.”

Each group created fairy gardens and had the younger students choose which fairy garden was the best, Madeline said.

“They’re rainforests and you decorate them with your tribe. Green tribe added water but they made a fountain and did all that stuff,” said Emma, an EdCamp student, adding that the tribe that earns the most points at the end of the week gets a treat.

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EdCamp students play charades work on collaboration and problem solving skills while playing charades. Photo by Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews

In the older students classroom, three girls worked with slime they’d created with a staff member, a group of boys laughed and joked as they played a card game, some students worked on fusible bead projects, and other students played a game of charades.

Signs on classroom walls reminded students of Camp Expectations to be safe, responsible, respectful, and helpful.

Madeline said, “My favorite thing about camp is making slime and working with my friends,” while Emma said, “My favorite thing about camp is probably hanging out with all my friends and doing projects with the class.”

EdCamp students self-portraits lined the wall outside the younger students classroom as well as a walk of fame with their handprints and names on stars.

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An EdCamp student takes part in a sensory activity center at Frontier Elementary. Photo by Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews

Inside the classroom for younger students, some put their hands in a large tub filled with gelatin bead as part of a sensory activity, while another group of students talked with each other as they strung beads on lanyards while other built chains with brightly colored plastic bands.

In another corner of the classroom, a group of three boys worked together using wooden blocks to build a large structure with ramps and a place for cars.

“What I like about Summer Camp is building with my friends like this, doing crafts and recess,” said Joseph, an EdCamp student, as he took a break from building with blocks.

Why EdCamp fills an important need

Many families need a safe place for their children to be while they work during the summer, and EdCamp provides that, engaging learning activities, and a place students can practice the soft skills they need to succeed in the classroom and outside of school, Worrell said.

“It allows that consistency in their routine and in their expectations. They know that everyday there is a safe place that they can go. They’re going to be engaged, and they know what to expect from the program,” Worrell said.

“We have consistent staff in the classrooms every single day,” Worrell said. “It’s a unique opportunity for students to build a close relationship with staff where they see the same staff, they’re valued, they’re cared for, they know that if they have a problem that someone is going to be there to help them.”

“It’s the same peers every single day so it really does give that community vibe, which I think may be a little bit different from some programs we see outside of ours,” Worrell said.

Students have fun while learning & building soft skills at Peoria Unified’s EdCamp Making-Slime-1000-wide
Students make slime with a staff member at EdCamp at Frontier Elementary School in Peoria Unified School District. Photo by Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews