Students in Catalina Foothills School District Community Schools Summer Camps expressed creativity, developed new skills, and increased problem-solving abilities with activities ranging from cake decorating to photography and yoga this summer.
About 150 to 200 students in Tucson each week took part in weekly morning and afternoon summer camps that interested them from June 6 through July 22, and had fun working as a team, building relationships and developing skills that will help them achieve success in the classroom and in life, said Mary Grodman, district program coordinator for Catalina Foothills Community Schools.
We’ve had a Summer Camp program up here in the Foothills for over 20 years,” Grodman said. “We scaled down a bit during the pandemic, and now we’re trying to build up our programs to what they used to be.”
“We wanted to make sure that students in our district had something fun and enriching to do over the summer,” Grodman said noting the program is open to the whole Tucson community.
AZEdNews Video: Students express creativity at Catalina Foothills Summer Camps
Video edited by Renée Romo/ AZEdNews & shot by Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews
“We are doing everything from sports camp – this week we actually have our lacrosse camp – we’re doing photography programs, we’re doing theater programs, we are doing a ton of cooking programs – the kids really enjoy the cooking programs,” Grodman said.
“We have STEM classes, we have classes about Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. We’re open to doing chess programs and puzzles and games – anything you know a student might be interested in,” Grodman said.
“This is a great space to kind of have a mellow, learning experience while still having fun,” Grodman said.
Students just finishing kindergarten through eighth grade attended the fee-based Summer Camps at Catalina Foothills High School in Tucson and pre-school and pre-kindergarten students took part in camp activities at Valley View Early Learning Center in Tucson.
The program has changed over the years, “we used to have one-hour classes and the kids would change each hour” now Catalina Foothills Community Schools Summer Camps have more of a three-hour block format with an hour for lunch and recess between morning and afternoon sessions, Grodman said.
Families can also enroll their students in extended hours in the morning from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and in the afternoon from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., Grodman said.
High school age students had options to take part in an online ACT preparation course, driver’s education classroom and behind the wheel training, volunteer as a junior counselor at summer camp, or take part in football speed and agility camp.
Summer learning programs are important to students, “because it keeps kids engaged, they get to make new friends, they get to learn new things,” Grodman said.
“We had a kindergartener who decided this week, he wanted to take a knitting class and his Mom was surprised,” Grodman said.
“It is really just a good opportunity for kids to be able to dabble in different things that they don’t get during the school day, and that maybe they don’t get in an after-school program.”
In Beginning Cake Decorating, Mr. Joe taught students basic techniques of cake decorating, and the students took their creatively decorated cakes home to share with their families each day.
As Mr. Joe, who had a catering business in Vermont and is new to Tucson, demonstrated icing a small cake, he told students to “pull the icing towards you this way you can see exactly what you’re pressure is. We smooth the sides first.”
“We’re going to decide where our back is going to be. I like to find a seam where I stopped with the spatula, so I’m going to make it right here. See where I left off with my smoothing?” Mr. Joe asked his students.
Mr. Joe, who has taught cake decorating many times, encouraged his students to use a lot of frosting, because covering a chocolate cake is more challenging than a vanilla one.
“I like to be able to work on actual cakes, and not just see it being done, but actually do it,” said Liliana as she iced her cake.
Cake decorating student Tess said she liked making new friends in class, while Julie said she liked making friends and learning how to decorate cakes.
“I’ve never done it before, and you get to learn a lot. It’s really fun and interesting,” said Margot.
Mr. Joe said he has enjoyed working this summer with some of his upcoming students and “show them that they have the confidence, and they can do this after a little instruction.”
In Photography and Photo Editing, Jess Gracia, a professional photographer, taught students how to use all the function of DSLR cameras, including how to shoot in manual mode.
Students learned photography through creative assignments such as portrait, sports, landscape, composition, lightening techniques and more. Students also learned some basic to intermediate levels of photo editing to create stunning images.
As students took photos inside the gym using high-end DSLR cameras, Gracia said, “We’ve been learning about all the different types of techniques to actually control all the settings in the cameras so that they can get the most out of their photography.”
Anna Lea, a photography class student, said “The thing I like about photography is just the experience mostly. It’s like really fun.”
Photography student Bella said, “I really enjoy photography, because of all the creativity you can put into it and how much there is that you can do with only a simple camera.”
This class “is a new thing to learn and it could become a hobby of mine, because I really enjoy it,” Bella said.
“That too and the people. The people are very kind,” said Anna Lea.
Summer learning “is super important for them, because it keeps their mind active, teaches them to see and view the world in a different way that they never thought of before,” Gracia said.
“We’re doing assignments like teaching them how to shoot shadows, colorful objects, sometimes what we call ugly things that are on the ground that we walk past every day and don’t see,” Gracia said.
Photography student Landon said, “I like taking photos of nature and animals” and “studying the camera.”
“They said we can go anywhere around the high school, and we can take pictures of whatever we want,” said Logan, a photography student.
“My favorite part is editing photos,” said Jack, a photography student.
“The key here is to get them to see the world through a different view,” Gracia said.
In Mindful Yoga, students learned various yoga positions and breathing exercises designed to help them in their daily life.
As the yoga teacher led students through a series of poses, she asked students to end with a pose they enjoyed.
After a short break, the yoga teacher encouraged students to try lizard, chair, and happy baby poses.
Later in the session, the yoga teacher said, “Bring it up to warrior one, then open it up to warrior two.”
As students painted rocks with watercolors during a break, yoga student Emma said, “I like doing poses. I like stretching,” while Peyton said, “My favorite thing is playing games, making new friends and having a nice stretching time.”
“This is a great opportunity to learn, to have fun, be in a safe space, to be in some air-conditioning and get to be outside a little bit,” Grodman said. “We definitely have a community feeling program here during the summer.”