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Students eager to learn at Summer enrichment camp

Summertime brings thoughts of warm, breezy days spent by the swimming pool, lemonade stands, water slides and time spent with friends as students enjoy those lazy and often unstructured summer months. School will often be a distant memory. However, for the rising fifth, sixth and seventh graders attending a week-long camp at Mountain City Elementary this summer, school is exactly where they want to be.

This is the sixth year that Andy Wright has orchestrated the “Follow Your Dream” Enrichment Camp for the students of Johnson County. It was held this year from June 14 through June 18. The students attending represent each elementary school in the county. According to Wright, “This is the biggest camp the school system offers.” Attendance is by invitation based on recommendations from teachers at each of the local elementary schools. Seventy students are attending the Enrichment Camp this summer. Each year, Wright chooses a different theme, with this year’s being Fast Food Restaurants. Part of the program goal is to teach the students healthy alternative food choices to fast foods. Although the classes vary from year to year, what remains constant and unchanging are the cooking classes.

Wright has found that students from past Enrichment Camps have wanted to come back year after year as volunteers. Often this is an opportunity for students to acquire volunteer hours for various programs and clubs they belong to. Students from past years were eagerly participating this year, seeming to enjoy the experience as much as the younger students. Even though he could only help for one day, eighth-grader Nate Plyer had returned to offer his assistance.
Donna Poteet, Julian Crews, Michael Eggers and Lane Sentell spent a week of their summer offering the chance for these students to be challenged in their thinking process and allow them to develop critical problem-solving skills. According to Wright, working at the Enrichment Camp allows the teachers the chance to teach students what they love to do, be it art, drama or even a foreign language. Due to budget cuts, the staff was cut from the usual five teachers down to four who participate in the week-long camp.
In Donna Poteet’s Greek Mythology class, students had been hard at work rehearsing for a play they will be presenting. She challenged the students to understand what the play was about and why a group of people would want to hold a festival for their crops. Poteet teaches high school English during the school year. According to her, the older students seem to enjoy Greek Mythology and the younger students love it. “They are very interested in it,” Poteet said. She added that students especially like studying about Medusa and Zeus. Students also explored Greek Mythology pertaining to the planets and constellations this week at camp.

Julian Crews teaches seventh-grade social studies at the middle school, along with coaching baseball. This week, he worked with the students on a class entitled “Having a Ball.” Crews has been working on introducing various games involving balls to the students. The students learned to play ultimate Frisbee, a high-paced game that requires both individual and team skills. The students also enjoyed dodge ball, basketball, including the all time favorite game of Horse, along with kickball and beach ball version of volleyball. “They are eager to participate,” said Crews.
During the school year, Michael Eggers teaches marketing and business at Johnson County Career and Technical Center. This is his third year teaching art to the students at the Enrichment Camp. Previously, Eggers taught the students the art of origami and mosaics. This year, the young artists studied the works and accomplishments of Michelangelo. According to Eggers, the eager students have taken to Michelangelo’s style of painting while lying on their backs as they lay under their desks, working diligently on their abstract and landscape paintings. Eggers complimented the students, speaking highly of them as he added, “They are all very eager to learn.”
This is the fifth year that Lane Sentell has worked at the Enrichment Camp. Sentell teaches math and science at Johnson County Middle School. This year, he taught the class “Myth Busters.” Based on the popular TV program, Sentell and students set out to debunk some myths of their own. “You challenge the students outside of their comfort zone,” said Sentell. On Monday, they watched an episode of MythBusters to observe problem-solving skills as they prepared to work on their own myths. “It’s a cool science,” added Sentell. He summarized that kids like to see things crash, burn and blow up. The students set out on Tuesday to study Newton’s Third Law of Motion or action and reaction. Testing the air pressure, a track was set up upon which they tried to debunk the theory with blow up balloons. The rest of the week was scheduled to continue concentrating on investigating air pressure, testing Bernoulli’s principle by the movement of ping-pong balls. “These kids have a lot of knowledge coming in,” said Sentell.

Sally Tugman from the University of Tennessee Extension Program and Angie Stout from Johnson County Health Department were busy teaching the students about healthy food choices this past week. “I look forward to this week every year,” said Tugman. She and Stout have worked together each year giving the students hands-on experience as they learn they can make a few substitutions to make their meals healthier. With Monday as Burger King day, the students made turkey burgers and a strawberry smoothie made from low-fat yogurt and frozen strawberries. On Tuesday, it was Pizza Plus day. The students made personal size pizzas, using English muffins, turkey pepperoni, homemade tomato sauce and part-skim Mozzarella cheese. “This is an easy snack,” Tugman added. The students celebrated Long John Silver’s day with tilapia, lettuce and cucumbers for salad that was all donated by Tracey Dugger of Johnson County Career and Technical Center. Tugman and Stout introduced the students to the concept of creating a healthier creamy salad dressing by diluting it with water or skim milk, as well as serving the dressing on the side of the salad. On Taco Bell day, the students enjoyed chicken fajitas and made their own chips by baking them instead of frying.  They also created their own salsa. They learned to make various slushies, including a tasty lemonade drink. Friday was Kentucky Fried Chicken day, with students baking their chicken instead of frying.
Wright has been happy with this year’s Enrichment Camp. “I’m glad it was funded,” she said. Not only was Wright pleased, but the teachers expressed what wonderful and well-behaved students they worked with each year at the Enrichment Camp. Tugman believes that this group is the most attentive group of all of the students they have had throughout the camp history. “They are very enjoyable, “ Tugman said. The children received a booklet with trivia information on each of the five restaurants, along with receiving small mementos and gifts distributed throughout the week, giving them something tangible to remember their special week during the summer of 2010.

When asked what part of the week he was enjoying, Shane Greer, with a broad grin on his face, said, “Really just everything!” Marly Eggers, a rising sixth grader at Mountain City Elementary, summed the week up. “You have art and myth busters,” Eggers said. “There are all different things you want to learn and explore.”