NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Instead enjoying some off time in July, some 300 pupils are spending the month eagerly learning science at the North Adams Public School Science Summer Camp.
This year's theme is "Kid Commotion to Save the Ocean."
Noella Carlow, the school system's 21st Century site coordinator, said the children spend seven hours a day at Brayton Elementary learning about the ocean and leadership skills during the four-week program.
"We want kids to learn how to give back to their community," Carlow said. "We just really feel that in today's society we need to have kids ready to give back and have those goals set early on so when they leave high school they will be able to function in today's society."
Teachers run different programs throughout the building. James Holmes' class tested the pH levels, or acidity, in water samples.
Incoming sixth-grader Nick Lescarbeau said they tested purified water and spring water and found that purified water had a slightly higher pH because it was processed and has chemicals in it.
Incoming fifth-grader Faith Karl said they even tested mystery liquids such as cabbage juice.
"First, we cooked a cabbage to get the cabbage juice. It smelled bad," Karl said. "We put 100 millilitres of water in our cups and then 10 millilitres of cabbage juice and then we check it on the pH scale."
Joey "the wombat" Onorato, who also will be going into fifth grade, said through learning about pH they also learned about global warming
"When the glaciers melt all of the fresh water is going to go into the ocean and that is going to change the ocean," Onorato said. "It could possibly cause an ice age and that could be really bad. We don't want to end up like the mammoth do we?"
Lescarbeau added that there is something different about school during the summer.
"I think it is more fun than school but you are still doing the same amount of learning except you aren't really thinking about it," Lescarbeau said.
Holmes said the students will also dissect a starfish, clean up an oil spill, filter their own water and visit the wastewater treatment plant
He added that another part of the program is to prepare students for high school.
"I talk to the kids as if they were in high school because the more they hear this high school language the more they will be familiar with it," Holmes said. "I am trying to get them follow directions and procedures."
Holmes often brings in police officers to help the kids learn teamwork skills.
Carlow said the summer camp lets children continue learning over the summer and allows the teachers to take a more hands-on approach in the classroom.
"If they have eight weeks off then some learning will be lost," she said. "Plus, I think this is more investigative learning, and we do more hands-on projects. We also see that behaviors are less in the summer. They come in, and they are happy."
Down the hall, teachers Lyn Hayden and Susan Oliveri combined their classes to study the five levels of the ocean and what lives in each one.
Hayden said they even snuck in some life lessons in with the book "Big Al." The book is about a scary looking fish who wants to make friends.
"It is about the biggest, ugliest, scariest fish in the ocean and the other fish are afraid of him, but he saves a bunch a fish in the end," Hayden said. "It is trying to teach them that it doesn't matter what you do or what you look like if you work together we are all friends."
Students later designed their own Big Als.
Teacher Elizabeth Patenaude also had a class full of kids learning about the seven seas and the five oceans. And why fresh water is different than salt water.
Carlow said the summer camp is in its 16th year and it takes on a new theme each year. Projects from prior years are displayed throughout the school. She said the state has recognized the North Adams program as one of the best.
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