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Camping out

Summer camp offers education in fun

Posted: Sunday, June 26, 2005

 

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  Logan Griffel turns hard as he competes in a water game at the Nikiski camp. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Participants in a summer day camp sponsored by the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area toss water balloons during a session outside the building that once housed Nikiski Elementary School last week. The camp features indoor and outdoor activities for youths from first to sixth grade.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

The day started off with some Crybaby Bubble Gum. The old school room was filled with kids who were wired and eager to start the competition — any competition, really. For some, the gum was simply a key to unlocking a pent up force of energy.

Logan Griffel, 7, a child who does not mince words, was one of them.

The scene was the North Peninsula Recreation Summer Day Camp.

Griffel chewed his Crybaby Bubble Gum ferociously as he marched out to the playground. As he reached the playing field, he, along with some of his buddies, remembered they forgot something — their uniforms. They scurried back into the school and moments later charged out the doors in their swim trunks, barefooted and shirtless braving the gloomy weather.

 

It's "game over" for Alex Robinson as the water balloon she was trying to catch breaks during a camp session at the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area last week. "It is so much fun," she said. "I love being here."

Photo by M. Scott Moon

As the kids lined up, Griffel quietly stood in line contemplating the tasks he was about to complete.

With summer here, kids have moved out of their school mode and into an era of constant playtime. And parents are taking advantage of summer camp offerings around the Kenai Peninsula to provide their children with recreational opportunities.

"It seems like you're never sitting down at a desk writing," said Jacqueline Pepper, 12, at the North Peninsula Recreation Summer Camp on Wednesday.

There are more than 12,000 day and resident camps in the United States with about 10 million adults and children attending them every year, according the the American Camp Association, a nonprofit accrediting association for camps.

 

Youths wind up and wind down during one of the camp's outdoor activities.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

"It's the only structure where kids can come and learn from playing," said Karen Kester, recreation director for North Peninsula Recreation Service Area, or NPRSA, about the importance of summer camps.

In summer camp, more behaviors are accepted than in a classroom, she said. Kids can test drive behaviors and they can get feedback from kids in the camp, Kester said.

People are so hung up being entertained by watching something, she said. But in camp, you are entertained by doing things.

"I think (kids) learn not to be afraid to try things," Kester said.

 

Logan Griffel turns hard as he competes in a water game at the Nikiski camp.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

The Kenai Peninsula has a variety of summer camp offerings for kids looking for some constructive summer recreation.

Camp Fire USA Alaska Council has an overnight co-oed camp on Kenai Lake that works on building teamwork, self-esteem and outdoor living skills. The age range for children is 8 to 15 years old.

They also have a counselor-in-training program for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Solid Rock Bible Camp, outside Soldotna, offers camps throughout the summer for a variety of ages. The camps include basketball, water skiing and primary through high school camps, among others.

 

Joshua Croze works intently on a project during afternoon pottery session at a summer day camp sponsored by the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Griffel, who was at the north peninsula day camp, did not seem to care too much about trends in summer camps or what else the world had to offer. He was more focused on the task at hand — Summer Survivor.

Counselors at the camp have loosely modeled Summer Survivor off the television show, said Rachel Parra, recreation supervisor for NPRSA. However, campers get points and prizes instead of getting eliminated like they do on the show, she said.

"We just try to use some of the Survivor stuff," Parra said.

The kids were charged with putting a spoon in their mouth, balancing a raw egg on it and weaving between some cones. Then they had to put the eggs on the ground and push them with their noses to the finish line.

Griffel quickly took the lead but then he stumbled and fell. Before long, he had recovered and was back on track.

He was at the finish line before his competitors had finished the first phase of the obstacle course.

In a post-game interview he had one comment: "I was gonna win. I'm bigger than them."

His favorite part of the course?

"The nose egg," he said ,referring to pushing the egg with his nose.

Next was the water balloon toss. The goal was to toss the balloon to a partner without breaking it.

Before the game began, in one camper's exuberance to toss the water balloon, it had already splattered in the grass.

Camper Ty Shoemaker, 10, was only in his second day at the camp but had already determined the water balloon toss was his number one activity.

"This is probably the most craziest," he said as he emerged from the water balloon drama.

He continued to relive the competition with a detailed play-by-play account.

"(The water balloon) bounced off my arm then it hit my leg," he said.

Following the water balloon competition came a new challenge. Campers partnered up and one lay on the ground with a small cup on their forehead. The partner stood above with a spoon and a bucket of water. The goal: spoon water into the cup, filling it as fast as possible.

Griffel was in the first round.

When the competition began, the campers carefully transferred water from the bucket into the cup, occasionally losing a drop of water on their partner's face. Griffel employed a different tactic — the shovel method.

He grabbed his spoon and heaved a steady stream of water into the cup, all over his partner's face and on the grass. After the counselors consulted on whether or not his method was within the rules, he was declared the winner.

"It's fun," Griffel said.

Fun with Summer Survivor is only part of the deal for campers. The camp offers a variety of activities, whether it is pottery workshops, gym activities, Slippin' Slide or "Iron Chef." Iron Chef is a cooking competition where the kids get to make their own food from scratch.

The counselors don't leave all the fun to the kids.

Recreation Assistant Tammy Berdahn did an internship at this camp while she was in college. Now, as a graduate, she said she has enjoyed the chance to continue the job.

"You get paid to play," she said as she watched Griffel shovel water all over his partner. "I just have fun playing with the kids."

As a kid, she said she attended a camp but never one like this. She said summer camp is a good way to teach kids while they have a good time.

"It gives you a lot of interaction with other kids," she said.

She added: "I think their parents appreciated a little bit of time with the kids out of the house."



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