Students enrolled in the Gulf District 21st Century Summer Enrichment Program celebrated the end of the month-long camp last Thursday with a water day at Lamar Faison Park.
Provided water slides and water guns, students took a break from their regular curriculum of computer programming, math, science and music to cool down and enjoy a beautiful summer day.
The program, led by Port St. Joe Elementary School principal designee Jo Clements, utilized the month of June to teach students in grades kindergarten through sixth how to program their own computer games.
By using the popular videogame Minecraft, students used geometry, science and problem-solving skills to build their own computerized villages.
These villages translated into art projects in which students built 3-D replicas of their worlds out of clay and also learned how to graph them on paper.
“The program is fun and they’re learning skills that rural areas traditionally don’t have,” said Clements.
Lynn Marshall, mother of first-grade twins Jacob and Costin, said the program was perfect for her boys. Marshall recently moved back to the area and said she liked the fact that her kids could continue to learn and have fun over the summer months.
“They come home and can’t wait to go back the next day,” said Marshall. “They think that doing things at the school is neat and it makes them think of the school as theirs.
“It’s not a babysitting program. The kids are learning new things every day.”
During the day students also spent an hour on art and music, two subjects that don’t fall into the school’s normal curriculum.
Students in grades 4-6 learned to play the recorders, grades 1-3 learned rhythm and kindergarteners learned how to rap Yankee Doodle.
“Music can be fulfilling in all aspects of life and it helps kids to grow,” said music teacher Becky Hare. “Their comprehension of music jumped during the program and they picked it up very quickly.”
Andria Dixon applauded the way the program’s curriculum kept all its activities related to the Minecraft game, allowing students to build on their knowledge over the course of the month.
“We’re helping them to learn things they may not have been exposed to during the school year.”
Dixon, the ESE Staffing Specialist for Port St. Joe Elementary School, jumped at the opportunity to participate. The former guidance counselor at the middle school, Dixon she said she really enjoys connecting with students and watching them learn.
Student volunteers from the high school joined the program as teaching assistants for community service hours.
In addition to all that learning, students had plenty of fun, participating in concerts, game shows and movie days.
Soon-to-be second-grader Aydan Davis said he knew about Minecraft prior to the program which made the learning process more fun. This was Davis’ third year attending the free program.
“It was a good experience,” said Davis. “We had awesome teachers and I want to do the program again next year.”
Teachers capped the celebration by doling out sno-cones to keep the kids cool and the energy levels high.