The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 23, 2011

Independent learning sparks imaginations

By Tricia Pursell
The Daily Item

SELINSGROVE — While many creative arts programs are fading in public schools because of drastic funding cuts, they will continue to be available for students in the summer, as long as there is interest in Kids’ College.

Forty-four children who have completed grades 2 to 5 were busy all week in sessions held at Susquehanna University during the Kids’ College Summer Camp, where they had the opportunity to take part in hands-on projects that had them thinking outside the box.

Not to mention having a lot of fun.

The Medieval Magic class spent their time learning about the Renaissance and creating marbelized art, constructing catapults and cardboard castles, writing calligraphy with feather quill pens, and jousting with foam swords.

As one of six retired, highly experienced teachers that run the program with the help of Susquehanna University and high school students, instructor Janet Latchford believed in giving them as many choices as possible.

Just like in Renaissance times.

“People just started using their imagination in ways they never did before,” Latchford told the group during the instruction portion of the class.

All of the teachers joined to make sure the college was a success and the kids were given every opportunity to both learn and imagine.

“We’ve all been saving our toilet paper rolls for castle parts,” assistant lead teacher Linda Adams revealed with a smile.

The creative sessions open up a whole new world for the kids, Latchford said, and you may never know what information or experience will spark their interest.

“They may follow up and do research on their own,” she said.

Other morning sessions included Foreign Forensics: CSI East Asia, with instructor Lori Smith, and “Wiggles, Squiggles, Fun and Giggles,” with program director and instructor Kathy Irwin Lentz, who said the summer camp is for “intellectually curious, highly motivated kids, who enjoy more complex, independent learning.”

The purpose is to give them room to grow their creative and critical thinking skills, she said.

“I am thrilled with the response we have gotten from the community,” Lentz said.

As long as that continues, she said, “we will be here.”

Kids’ College, in its sixth year, exposes students to what is offered at the Susquehanna University campus.

“Hopefully, someday maybe they’ll come back as freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors,” Lentz said.

A lot of experiences like these used to be included in schools, Adams said: “Now, there’s not so much time for that sort of thing.”

Funding has decreased, and schools tend to be more test-oriented as they are mandated to make sure their students are meeting certain state standards.

“You don’t get this in a classroom setting,” Latchford agreed.

Today, in her class, students will wrap up the week with a special Renaissance fair.

Lentz had formerly provided these special creative activities to select groups of students in schools, but this makes it available to all students who join the camp.

The cost to attend the camp is $190, or $38 a day.

More information is available at the Kids’ College link at www.susqu.edu/oem, the university’s Office of Event Management.

A Junior Writers Workshop, for students who have completed grades 3 through 8, will be held Aug. 1 to 12.