How I Spent My Summer Work-cation

August 6, 2009 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

Chalk craftWorking in informal education has its perks—I get to bring live animals to the classroom, I get to work outside in the woods, and the constant change of activities never leaves me bored. However, there is a tiny down side. Unlike formal education, I rarely see the same people over and over again, and I don’t get to bond with the students. It’s hard to make a real connection in 50 minutes, you know? Summer camp is a small exception to that.

For a week we get to keep the same kids. We are able to learn their personalities (the good and the… well… mostly good,) discover their knowledge and, hopefully, passion of science, and contribute to their love and understanding of it. It’s not just a camp. It’s a chance to be five different scientists in one week!

It starts in the morning with the drop-off. Sometimes the kids come prancing in eager to begin the week, and sometimes there are teary goodbyes—not always with the tears belonging to the child. However, cheeks dry and smiles begin to creep on their faces when we head up to the camp room. There’s a frantic rush to the cubbies as each child searches for his or her name. There’s a t-shirt inside! And a hat! And a… pencil! (Somehow they are equally just as thrilled by each item.) This is just the beginning.

Over the process of a week, the campers participate in a wide array of games, hands-on activities, and crafts—each one secretly intended to teach the children as much as to entertain them. One day they are Zoologists, learning all about unusual or endangered animals. Yes, the snake is fun to touch, but did you also know that it has a backbone? Okay, you knew that one, but do you know what the longest native snake in Georgia is? (If you’re reading this, and you don’t know, you’ll just have to look that one up!) Hydrologists, Archaeologists, Paleontologists, Botanists—these children go through career changes like they’re college freshmen.

Each activity, each new game that we play or place that we explore, brings out a new twinkle in their eyes that wasn’t there before. There are more questions. More gasps of amazement. More squeals of discovery.  It’s fun to watch their progression, even in that short amount of time. By the end of the camp week, the children feel like “professionals” of science; one little girl even told me that she was going to look for a job as a Botanist the next week.

Rather than your typical celebration, this camp concludes with a graduation in honor of the knowledge the children have gained. Cubbies are cleaned, crafts from the week are packed to be taken home, and numbers are exchanged by the parents of new best friends. I receive thank yous and hugs as the children leave—signs of the connection that I’d been hoping for—and things begin to slow down. Camp is over for the summer now, but that just gives me plenty of time to look forward to next year.

 Becky Facer, Environmental Education Specialist

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About

At Fernbank Museum, there’s much more than dinosaurs and giant-screen films. Even with our website, e-newsletters, Facebook pages and Twitter updates, there’s still a lot we’d like to share with you. This blog is an opportunity for the people that keep Fernbank running and constantly expanding, to share stories from their point of view. We hope you’ll enjoy these first-hand, behind-the-scenes glimpses of what goes into keeping a world-class natural history museum running. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback on these stories, to hear your personal experiences and hear any suggestions for topics. Happy reading!

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