Camp SPARK makes learning fun

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
Colchester - posted Mon., Apr. 25, 2011
Excited campers at Camp SPARK watch a Diet Coke and Mentos geyser. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
Excited campers at Camp SPARK watch a Diet Coke and Mentos geyser. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

The learning doesn’t have to stop just because it’s spring break. That’s the message given in a fun way to the Colchester students who attended last week’s Camp SPARK. 

“We want them to have fun. We want a little more relaxed environment than school. But we want them to take something away with them,” said Valerie Nettleton, the counselor in charge of this year’s four-day camp.

Sponsored by the Colchester Parks and Recreation Department and open to kids in kindergarten through fifth grade, Camp SPARK provided four full days of fun and educational activities at Jack Jackter intermediate School.

“We really want to support the parents and the schools,” said Recreation Specialist Amanda Herzog, who organized this year’s camp. There were about 20 kids at each day’s camp, she said, with a different mix from day to day, since parents were able to choose any or all of the four days over which the camp operated. The camp did not operate on Good Friday because many families have plans for that day and the holiday weekend, said Herzog.  

Each camp day had a special theme, said Nettleton, and activities for that day in some way related to that theme. Each day also provided another way for the campers to grow.

One day, the theme was outer space, giving one camper who was particularly interested in the planets a chance to lead the group for a time.  Another theme was “Amazing Race,” in which the campers divided into teams and faced a series of physical and intellectual challenges, like a three-legged race or a trivia contest. These events allowed the kids to learn all about sportsmanship and teamwork, said Nettleton, which is particularly important when there is such a range of ages between the participants.

The last day of the camp was “Super Heroes Day," and started with the campers making masks representative of their favorite superhero. In the afternoon, the campers saw the counselors perform several “Super Science Experiments,” as Nettleton called them, in keeping with the superpowers theme.

“Science experiments are kind of a fun thing to do,” said Nettleton, who led the campers outside to perform some simple but entertaining experiments.

“We try to get them outside at least once every day,” said Nettleton. Unfortunately, on this day the wind was too strong for her first experiment of trying to draw a boiled egg through the top of a bottle by creating a vacuum inside the bottle. After several failed attempts, the experiment was moved inside, where a small flame inside the bottle was enough to draw in a boiled egg. Like all of the experiments, this led to a discussion with the kids of basic scientific principles.

“Do you guys know what chemicals are?” asked Nettleton, before she poured vinegar on a bowl of baking soda, followed by a talk about chemicals and how they are used in everyday life.

Little explanation was needed, however, for the grand finale, in which several Mentos were dropped into a large bottle of Diet Coke, spouting a geyser much taller than any of the counselors. The excited looks on the faces of the campers was enough.

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