Cox and Bayside collaborate to create academic adventures

The sidewalks in front of Cox High School typically are not filled with chalk drawings of stick figures, hopscotch squares, smiley faces and other doodles.

And it’s not common for an intense game of Duck, Duck, Goose to break out steps away from the school’s front doors.

However, that was the scene the first week in August as Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow (VTfT) classes from Cox and Bayside high schools worked together to host their first “Academic Adventures Camp” for 4-8 year olds. New and current VTfT students and alumni from both schools volunteered their time to serve as camp counselors.

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A tired Anthony Christman offered a recommendation for next year.

“Just wait until 10:00 to start. Don’t deal with kids at 8:00 in the morning,” said the 2014 Bayside graduate laughing. “They are all over the place. You’ve got to let them settle in. They’re like puppies; you just let them out of the cage and they just go.”

High school student counselors nearby shook their heads in agreement, equally exhausted.

Despite the fatigue, Christman said he loves working with children, recalling his experiences with the VTfT program at Bayside and noting his current volunteer work in college and at his church. He aspires to be a social worker.

“I’m always working with kids,” he explained. “And even though this camp is for kindergarten, first and second graders, some of these kids are geniuses! When they get older they are going to be masterminds.”

Preparing children for the new school year with a mix of academic activities was the camp’s goal, according to Meg Manugo, who teaches the VTfT class at Bayside.

“We’ve covered math, reading, writing, science, geography, art,” she listed.

“They’ve done scavenger hunts, celery stamping, shape houses, and an octopus counting activity,” Manugo continued. “Today we’re doing bottle rockets, and the older kids became botanists yesterday and created their own plant. They did research and talked about the habitat.”

“We’ve had to differentiate,” noted Jenny Nardelli, VTfT teacher at Cox. “The activities are fun, but they all have an educational purpose.”

Both teachers were pleased with the collaborative effort and commitment by their students for the first-year endeavor.

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“I think it’s great that Bayside and Cox could come together to help out the kids in the community,” said Nardelli. “Every day they come in here from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to be with these kids. They don’t get paid. We’re very lucky to have such good students who will do this.”

Their advising high school teachers even admit to feeling tired after four days of working with 27 children who range in grades from pre-kindergarten to third grade.

“And it’s exhausting,” Nardelli added. “Even they say, ‘When you get home you just want to sit on the couch.’ You’re just constantly doing things and moving and working with the kids.”

“It’s good experience,” Manugo said. “It’s giving them a really clear indication of the work. They have gained a whole lot of respect for elementary school teachers.”

Camp counselor Brooke Moore wants to become an elementary school teacher. The 2016 Cox graduate, who begins her studies at Longwood University this month, appreciated the opportunity to work with younger students at the camp.

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“I’ve learned a lot. It has given me insight on how it will be when I am actually with them on my own,” she said. “It’s awesome to see how they learn; how they interact with each other and with kids they’ve never met before.”

“I really like seeing the aha moment kids have when they learn and finally get something,” Moore added.

Unlike Moore, Cox senior Frayser Wall, isn’t enrolled in the VTfT class and doesn’t plan to pursue a career in education but he valued the experience to serve as a camp counselor.

“It’s been really good to work with Bayside, and it’s always good to come together as schools to provide a service to the community,” Wall said.

“I’ve learned a lot just by working with the kids. It’s helped me become more patient, I think,” he continued. “It’s not every day that we get to work with young kids who are full of energy like this. I’m involved in SCA and everything we do for SCA is with adults or other high school kids, so it’s nice to get this breath of fresh air, so to speak, with the little kids.”

The little kids were calling and Wall stood outside the circle of those waiting to play another round of Duck, Duck, Goose.

“We’re going to have John go first. Let’s spread out the circle. Please make room for Kyle,” Wall encouraged as new players joined the game.

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The seated campers didn’t widen the circle enough, so Wall tried another approach.

“Let’s have everyone stand up,” he instructed. “Now, take one big step back and then sit down.”

Fellow counselors, joining Wall in thinking like veteran teachers, already had a back-up plan for those who didn’t want to be ducks or geese.

Chalk and bubbles to the rescue!

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