Time flies when you're having fun, so it isn't surprising for attendees at the Fort McPherson summer camp that the experience is halfway over.

Although the camp, which began in June and runs through July, is past its halfway point, fun activities are just beginning.

This month, the children will have the opportunity to go on field trips to the World of Coca Cola, the Center for Puppetry Arts and the Arbor Place Mall.

The children will also take weekly trips to the bowling center and community swimming pool on Fort McPherson.

While the camp is "all fun and games," there is a deeper meaning to activities being learned subconsciously by the children as the weeks go by, said lead camp counselor Marcus Dumas.

"We're helping them (the kids) become more independent young adults," she said.

This is accomplished by having a weekly theme upon which all activities are centered, Dumas said.

For example, during one week, the theme was food and nutrition, so children did food related activities such as creating a menu for lunch, making food such as ice cream sundaes and pizza, visiting the Fort McPherson commissary to learn how to pick out healthy foods, and taking a field trip to the Young Chef's Academy in Atlanta.

Such activities allow the children to learn while having fun, Dumas said.

"Parents are adamant about not letting their kid's brain get lazy," Dumas said.

Fellow summer camp counselor Connie Schley said keeping brains active is an important part in determining activities for the children.

"You don't want to stop the consistency of growth at school and home over the summer," she said. "We want the kids to grow but still have fun."

As a college professor at Georgia Perimeter, Dumas said he sees the effects of an idle brain on students.

By keeping kids involved in learning, even through the summer break, Dumas said the children are building a foundation for a love of learning, setting themselves up for success.

"One day all these kids will be in leadership roles," he said. "They need to learn how to communicate and interact with others."

Interaction is encouraged throughout the activities, whether they are simple ones such as playing sports outside or helping another child become a better reader.

"Every Friday, we go to the library and read a book," Dumas said. "We then have the little kids pick a reading partner."

First grade students get partnered with third graders, while second graders team up with fourth graders, Dumas explained.

The younger kids get to read a book to the older, allowing them to work on their reading skills, while the older children are there to help the younger ones if they encounter difficulty.

"It's a team building experience," Dumas said, adding the children learn interaction. Such success is not just limited to academia.

The lessons taught through the fun activities at summer camp also apply to personal interactions as well, Dumas said.

This week, children learned about etiquette and manners by practicing them in a mock restaurant set up in the Child, Youth and School Services Youth Center.

Later, they practiced them in a real life setting: the 6 to 8 year-olds at CiCi's Pizza on Tuesday and the 9 to 12 year-olds at Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant on Thursday.

The effects of such experiences are becoming more apparent each week, Dumas and Schley agreed. Schley said she can see it daily in the way the kids treat each other, adding the children have become more courteous and better sports when playing with each other.

The effects are seen even outside the confines of Fort McPherson.

"People are always remarking how well behaved our kids are at field trips," Dumas said.

However, an even greater measurement of success is the enjoyment the children have, Schley said.

"They're happy to come. They look forward to the field trips, the activities, as well as being with their friends," she said.

Overall, Dumas said he hopes the children leave the camp with the mindset that it was a very memorable and enjoyable experience, while parents get to see positive growth and development.

"They come in as caterpillars and leave as butterflies," Dumas said.

Page last updated Thu July 1st, 2010 at 11:18