Friday, June 25, 2010

Week 2 of FITs

Oh my gosh. Where to begin.

What a topsy-turvey emotionally, physically, spiritually demanding week I've had!

"Fun in the Sun" sounds like fun, right? Surprise: it is the most challenging job I've ever had in my life. But at the same time is it enormously rewarding.

I've been 100% responsible for 13 low-income sixth through ninth graders this week, ages 11-13, mixed boys and girls. They are all Hispanic. I plan all of their activities and am expected to teach them a myriad of subjects from reading to self defense to environmental awareness.

I'll run you through my average day:

8 to 9 - Informal Activities. I arrive at camp and figure out an inside activity for 20-25 kids. I've done cartoon drawing, where I draw something on the board and they try to copy it. Sometimes we just sit and color, do oragami, or play board games or twister. The boys usually play soccer outside (a few girls play with them) and the younger girls come hang out with me. They are sooooo cute!!

9 to 9:30 - Morning celebration, where the entire camp gathers and we sing songs/play games together. The camp is run by 4 women, 3 of us young college kids. We take turns leading songs. The popular ones this year are "The Weenie Man" and "The Milk Song." I really enjoy the Milk Song but the Weenie Man is really annoying. We play sharks and minnows or tunnel tag, where we get the blood pumping. Chasing kids is good exercise! They're fast!

9:30 - 10:30- Reading time. Last year when I had 4th grade boys whose reading skills were iffy, I made up lessons plans (usually on the spot) teaching them grammar and reading skills through games. This year, though, everyone in my group can read (YAY!) so I brought some books from home and give them free reading time for about 20 minutes.

If I had a class set, I would love to read aloud to them. I tried reading aloud from one of my favorite young adult books called The Hunger Games but its too hard for them to follow along without seeing it in front of them.

For the last half hour of reading, I do different things. One day I divided them into teams and had them play a competitive rhyming game that I made up - its pretty fun! Today they read to the little kids in a younger group, that was cute. If anyone has any suggestions for reading activities for 6th grade/junior high school students, let me know!

10:30 - 11- Snack/Recess. Here's where I get to take a little break, gather myself, figure out what I'm going to do next, and play with the kids. The girls play handball and the boys play (you guessed it!) soccer. The little boys whack tennis balls with plastic baseball bats. It's empowering for them because they're so tiny yet the ball goes so far!

11 to 12 - Service Learning. So if you read my other post you heard that if the kids complete 100 hours of service learning, they each get a $500 college scholarship. This allotted time is where we figure out what we're doing for our big project. So far we've had a few successful brainstorming sessions, and the kids decided they wanted to focus on the oil spill.

I asked the Santa Barbara News Press to donate newspapers for this week, so we read the stories about the Oil Spill. They have a really hard time understanding news stories unless we read them together and I stop after every paragraph to ask comprehension questions/explain. So I can simultaneously teach them about journalism (I had them use different colored crayons to identify the headline, the byline, the lead, etc) and have them learn about the spill.

12 to 1 - I get a lunch break! Yay! Sometimes I go to the beach with my coworkers (its right down the block) or downtown. Usually I bring a homemade lunch and eat it across the street in the park.

1 to 4:30 - Afternoon Activities/Field Trips. Here begins the hardest part of the day, where I am completely responsible for entertaining them. Most of this time should be allocated for service learning activities, since to complete their 100 hours they have to average at 3 hours per day. This week I've done pretty well, taken them on 4 field trips, which is great considering its the first week! I'm only supposed to have one per week, but I figure if the van driver is available, might as well get em out on the town!

On Tuesday I took them to the Summer Solstice Workshop, where they got a complete tour of all the floats, learned how they were constructed, and even hepled paint/paper mache a few floats! It is such a bright, colorful, artistic setting bustling with creative energy. Later in the week we read an article in The Santa Barbara Independent about it, and we had seen most of the floats they had mentioned!

On Wednesday we went to the Library, where I had them watch youtube videos and look at photos online about the oil spill. We looked at a few magazines with info about the spill in it, and then I gave them 10 minutes of free time. During their free time at the library, the boys played virtual soccer. I'm not kidding.

I also signed them up for the summer reading program, where they get prizes for reading. Yay!

On Thursday we went to the Watershed Resource Center near Hendrys Beach, listened to a presentation from the woman there, and then spent an hour playing at the beach. Responsible for 13 energetic children near the ocean, I would have been completely overwhelmed had I been alone. However, my parents stopped by (yay mom and dad!) and helped me supervise. Last year we had high school kids, Counselors in Training (CITs), who would come on field trips with us, but this year we don't have any yet.

Today (Friday) we went on a surprise field trip. Iimagine a whiny voice asking "Amber, where are we going on our field trip today?" 800 times. But they were excited when we arrived at the Arabian Horse Show at Earl Warren Showgrounds! We got to watch a few of the competitions, walk around and look at the horses up close, and talk to a few jockeys. They had a really good time!

So this is my life for the next 6 weeks. I'm kind of obsessed with it. There's a lot of planning/outside research/phone calls/thinking/emotional baggage that I carry around during this time of the summer, so I apologize if I can't talk about anything else.

Please, please, please let me know if you have any ideas! Here's what I need help thinking of:

  • simple informal activity ideas using as few materials as possible.
  • reading time (easy reading games to play? where to get a class set of books?)
  • our service learning project. It's loosely focused on the oil spill, but as long as its related to the environment/disaster relief we can count the hours. What can we do to help the community? I'm thinking about making a newspaper, considering my experience in journalism. (teach what you know, right?) I hope for them to include photos, interviews, drawings, and stories related to the environment... any more ideas?
  • fun, inexpensive field trips around Santa Barbara. We have a van driver who can take us anywhere. Related to the environment/disaster relief is preferable so we can count it towards their service learning hours, but anything is great!
  • How I can word the Arabian Horse Show to count towards our Service Learning hours... helping the environment by relying on horsepower instead of cars? hmmm....

Well if you've read this far, thanks so much! I really appreciate it. Happy Solstice!


  1. Do you have access to anything you could turn into a small garden plot? You could get some seeds and start seedlings in small cups and then plant them when they get bigger. Or go to a nursery and have them give you some big disposable pots that they probably have everywhere. If they are big enough, you could keep the plants in them and wouldn't need to actually put in the ground. For seeds, you would
    only need to purchase one cantaloupe and use the seeds from inside there. Those sprout very easily.

    Is there a dining hall? How about starting a food waste composting project? Have the kids help separate the food waste before it goes into the trash or they can go through the trash bags afterwards, but obviously that is less optimal.

    I heard some ridiculous quote about the percentage of what goes into landfills could actually be removed and composted. Like 50%! That's a lot of energy to take banana peels and apple cores across town when you could just have a pile of them next to your garden.

  2. Hey Amber it's Michelle you should try calling the Wildlife Care Network-they're out in Goleta by OSH now but I think they do tours of their rehab facilities and there's got to be someone there who know tons about rehabbing oil spill animals...There's one woman who takes most of their seabirds and rehabs them at her house, I don't know if she does any tours or anything...I think the wildlife care network may be able to give you some good environmental info and even if not it'd be really good experience i think for the kids to see the injured animals getting rehabbed...

  3. Hey Amber!

    You're off to a good start with your youngsters. It seems to me that if you try to match your first week's activities for the rest of the summer you'll all be exhausted, but maybe that's just old age talking. Anyway, it would be fun to be a kid again and in your care.

    Suggestion: Art work. Supply them with the paper and something to draw on it. Unleash them to draw anything they want. Then have each kid show what he or she has done, explain what it represents, and ask for comments. Save the best ones for future use on a poster, or send them home for parental perusal.

    Joke books. Break them up into small reading groups in which the group members take turns reading the jokes out loud. Then assemble the entire class and each student can tell his or her favorite joke from their reading session. If this sounds worth a try, let me know and I will have send you some kid's joke books right away.

    With admiration for your pep, patience and creativity from RWY