FORT SMITH — Christ the King School’s summer enrichment program is giving students an opportunity to learn, play and explore new activities without leaving the school campus.
Camp CTK has contracted with local programs — Community School of the Arts, Yogaterrium, ATA Martial Arts and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission — to lead age-appropriate classes in a camp setting.
Camp opened May 28 and runs through Aug. 2 from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. each day, for children 18 months old through sixth grade. Families can sign up for as many weeks as they choose, from one to five days a week. About 70 children are participating in the program, primarily preschoolers and elementary students.
Laura Siddons, Christ the King’s director of enrichment programs, moved to Fort Smith last summer with her husband Upton, a resident at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and their three children, ages 11 months to 5 years old. The former high school teacher has found her new job to be a welcome transition.
“I love to design curriculum,” Siddons said. “Christ the King has been really fantastic in giving me free rein to build a summer program that really focuses on child-led learning. It’s really important to key in to the natural love of learning that all children have by providing them with hands-on activities to facilitate that exploration.”
Each week’s activities are centered on nature-based themes, such as living and non-living things, insects, trees and roots and mammals. Faith is incorporated into each day’s activities through prayer time, stories and music. During the week of June 17-21, all kindergarten through sixth grade campers attended the church’s Vacation Bible School.
Parent Mandy Hilton, whose children are ages 3 and 6, was pleased with the new curriculum at Camp CTK.
“My children are absolutely loving it,” she said. “There were so many activities that Isabel wanted to try that I wasn’t sure she’d enjoy. She loves her martial arts classes with ATA Martial Arts. Mathis loves the dancing and singing.”
The Community School of the Arts hosts preschool and toddler drama classes focusing on music and movement. Terri Hargrove, director of Yogaterrium, lets the children explore what it’s like to be a tree or a butterfly through traditional yoga poses.
“Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is coming to teach archery,” Siddons said. “We will look at fossils, learn about the different animal groups and study the food chain and natural habitats.”
Christ the King’s camp staff has also worked hard to design programs for each age level.
A graduate student instructor has designed a guided nature exploration class during which students will go outside, sing songs or listen to stories about nature and do a guided activity, such as making paint out of flower petals.
“It’s a very organic nature-based activity that will teach children to be conscious of the environmental footprints they leave each day,” Siddons said
Dawn Bull, a retired kindergarten teacher, teaches gardening and cooking, using vegetables and fruits from Christ the King’s own school garden, giving them a little taste of the “farm to table” concept.
“Most of our counselors are college students majoring in early childhood education. They are the primary caregivers working with students,” Siddons said.
The staff-to-child ratio is 1:5 for toddlers, 1:7 for preschoolers and 1:8 for older children.
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