Luverne After School program has wild, wild, west summer

The Luverne After School camp ran from May 31 to July 8. The camp was made possible through the 21st Century Community Learning Center After School Program, a federally funded grant renewable every three years. The theme of this year’s camp was “The Wild, Wild West,” with about 60 students attending. From horses and saddles to denim and Stetson hats, each day the campers experienced a different part of the wild, wild west.

LaFreda Griffin, director of the 21st Century program, said that the camp was available for students that attended last year’s after school program, also made available through the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant. According to Griffin, the camp helps students to stay on track during the summer break.

“The 21st Century Community Learning Center Summer Camp Program offers students academic enrichment during the summer that aligns with the regular school day and offers a safe and structured place to have fun. .  It keeps the students engaged by offering fun and exciting STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) activities,” Griffin said.

“During the regular school year, the after-school program runs from 3:15 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. and follows the regular school year calendar. We hire certified, highly qualified teachers for these programs. Our summer program runs from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.  Breakfast and lunch are served by the school cafeteria, but our snacks and or other food products are purchased through donations.”

Students participated in daily STEAM activities, including an arts and craft project that went along with the camp’s theme and the daily topic, for example: making a wanted poster, painting a picture of a wagon wheel, and making horses and lassos from arts and craft materials.

Special guests visited the school throughout the 6-week camp. On June 9, Phillip and Donna McDougald brought their two quarter horses to Luverne Afterschool Camp and on June 23 the Pensacola Mess Hall visited. 

On July 14, the Montgomery Zoo brought an exhibit for the students. Lew-E’s Comedy Circus traveled from Forsyth, Georgia to perform a magic and juggling show. Noah & Heather, entertainers from Destin, Florida put on a magic show the following week. Dynamite Magic and Balloons out of Montgomery was the final magic show during the camp.

On July 7, campers enjoyed an interactive presentation entitled “Reactions in Action,” led by  Christopher Earnhardt, education specialist with the McWayne Science Center out of Birmingham. Through knowledge shared by Earnhardt, the experiments he presented, and interactive conversation, students learned about chemical and physical changes and the scientific process.

Cannon Albritton, seventh grader at Luverne, and Braylin McGhee sixth grader at Luverne, were eager for the show and discussed how they enjoy learning outside of a textbook.

“I am ready to see the science stuff! Math is my favorite subject but when I can actually see things done in science and not just hear it or read it, it makes me like science more,” McGhee said.

Albritton shared similar thoughts.

“When we were learning about PH in school, it did not click until we did an experiment. When stuff isn’t just buried in a book, it is easier to understand,” Albritton said.

Earnhardt opened the presentation with a question for the students, “How do you learn best?” The replies included “by seeing, by doing, touching, and putting your hands on it.”

“You all are exactly right! If you want to learn about animals, you go to the animals, if you want to learn about chemistry, we do the chemistry.

Chemistry and Science teaches us that everything is changing, all the time, and although there are a lot of changes going on in the world right now, and things can get overwhelming, change for the better is always possible,” Earnhardt said.

Earnhardt executed several experiments, using the scientific method that explained chemical and physical changes. He informed the students that it is never safe to try these experiments at home and engaged the students in many ways, including asking them what their hypotheses were.

The program ended with a fire and oxygen experiment that created a huge reaction from the students.“Science can be spectacular and dangerous, and so can life. With science and good decisions on your side, you can literally change the world,” Earnhardt told the kids.

The site director for the camp was Regina Thomas. Michelle Shurden, Julie Albritton, Andrea Smith, Cheryl Daniels, and Michelle Dunn were camp instructors.