Kids don’t know they learn at math camp
EDWARDS – Miguel Chavez doesn’t think he’s learning anything this summer, but he is.Chavez, who will be a fifth grader at Edwards Elementary School this fall, is one of 90 kids enrolled in the school’s annual summer math camp. But the camp isn’t just bookwork. That would just lead to staring out the windows at the summer-blue sky.No, the kids at the Edwards math camp have so much fun they often don’t know they’re learning.Kids at the three-week camp go on at least a couple of field trips – to Sylvan Lake, to the Fairy Caves in Glenwood Springs and to the Gates Ranch near Burns. There, the kids all get some time on horses, and the older students – those going into fifth grade next year – get an overnight trip to the ranch to participate in a cattle drive.”I’m really looking forward to the horseback riding,” said Sarah Miller, who will be in fifth grade next year.
Between the trips, teachers actually sneak in some education. Before going inside Tuesday morning, for example, teachers Tom van Cleeve and Teresa Cierco had a group of next year’s fifth graders play a quick round of an old game called “steal the bacon.”The class was split in half, with the two groups facing each other a few yards apart. Cierco stood halfway between the two groups, holding a plastic grocery bag that served as the bacon. One kid in each group was given a number. When Cierco shouted out that number, in Spanish, the kids raced for the bag. It was a good way to burn off a little early morning energy before going inside, and the kids got a quick drill in their Spanish numbers.Like virtually everything else at Edwards Elementary, this math camp is run as a “dual-language” program. All the students get half their instruction in Spanish, and half in English. In fact, the math camp is funded with the same federal grant that pays for much of the dual-language program.About 60 percent of the campers are Hispanic, compared to more than 70 percent during the school year. Any Edwards Elementary student can participate in the program, and there’s more interest than spots available.
Teacher Jen Sansone said there were more than 200 applicants for this year’s camp. “We had to hold a lottery,” she said.The camp is popular because a lot of kids, like Chavez, aren’t entirely sure they’re doing school work. That’s on purpose, of course. For example, kids are learning to figure out perimeters by measuring the edges of bandanas. Kids on the Sylvan Lake trips measure trees.And a group of next year’s third and fourth graders are learning more than they know while they’re working to stock a “general store.” The kids are spending this week making “poke purses,” Old West slang for a kind of wallet. To fill the purses, the kids are earning play money by cleaning up and doing various math exercises. At the end of the week, the students will shop at the store for stuff they’ve made.The students are learning to count coins and bills, of course, but they’re learning even more as they stock their stores. The students are cooking corn bread and a few other items, which involves measuring and fractions.
“I like making the poke purses,” Aldo Moreno said. “You put your money in them. That’s the only way to buy stuff.The students who have been through math camp know they’re having fun, but they know they’re learning, too. “It’s helping me a lot,” Julia Minervini said. “We’re learning about money and how to count it.”And that’s the secret of math camp.”Math doesn’t have to be all adding and subtracting,” Sansone said.
Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado