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For a week, the classroom is a camp, great outdoors



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LAMSAM_NOREEN
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Lamsam (click for larger version)
May 06, 2014 | 02:09 PM
FONTANA — The highlight of the fifth-graders’ week at camp is the Thursday night open house.

That night is the culmination of four days of hard work and a lot of fun. It’s a night to show off to parents and teachers.

On Monday morning, April 28, Fontana Elementary School students packed their bags and climbed into buses. The ride to the Lake Geneva Youth Camp in Lake Geneva isn’t long.

The weeklong outdoor education program isn’t long, either, but the time is packed full of learning. The week’s goal is to “instill a lifetime appreciation for all things in nature.”

Most of the week, students were outside on trail or pond studies, learning about the environment. Teachers purposely keep them outside as much as possible.

And while they’re learning, they’re always working on scripts for their own skits about the environment to perform for their parents and teachers on Thursday night.

Morgan Courier, a sophomore at Big Foot High School and counselor for one of the fifth-grade student groups, said it doesn’t take that long to write the short skits.

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“The kids write them themselves,” she said. “They just kind of figure it out themselves, and us counselors help with the finishing touches.”

Courier was one of six high school students who helped with the annual outdoor education week.

The students are immersed in nature all day long. Their groups are named after specific natural groups: food chains, soil and wetlands. Noreen Lamsam, fifth-grade teacher and director of the outdoor education program, said the skits are based on what each group is learning about.

“We want parents to see that process of learning, so we put the show on for them,” she said in a phone interview May 5. “It also eases that week away from home. It gives kids a chance to see mom and dad.”

The skits, she said, are sometimes based on a popular TV show or a celebrity scandal.

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There’s no separation of learning and living during the outdoor education week. Every experience, Lamsam said, is a learning one.

“I love the trail study,” she said. “I love bringing the kids out into the woods and seeing their reaction to it.”

The Lake Geneva Youth Camp is the perfect place for the class, too. There are just enough wooded areas to hide the fact that the kids are only about a hundred yards from busy city streets.

It’s the kind of learning environment that can’t be duplicated in a classroom.

“We’ve been very happy at the Lake Geneva Youth Camp,” Lamsam said. “Before that we were at George Williams College for quite a while, but they wanted to change the program a little bit. We wanted to stay with the outdoor parts.”

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Lamsam said she likes to keep Fontana students near the lake where they live.

“I like to stick near the lake, this is what the kids know,” she said. “It’s good for them to learn about where they live.”

The kids come back changed for the better after the weeklong adventure.

“Oh, the kids absolutely love it,” Lamsam said. “When we get back on Friday, they’re just crying when they come off the bus. They want to go back to camp.”

Lamsam said the kids learn to interact with each other on a different level.

“It’s a different environment when you live with your classmates for the week,” she said. “You really get to know them differently.”

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