Camp Wonder enrolment doubles in Windsor this summer

Twice as many Windsor and Essex County schoolchildren are taking part in Camp Wonder this summer compared to last year.
Rick Pickersgill is one of the teachers working with students in the Camp Wonder program this summer. (John Van Dusen/CBC)

Twice as many Windsor and Essex County schoolchildren are taking part in Camp Wonder this summer compared to last year.

Last year, 300 students took part in the program. This year, more than 600 are enrolled.

It's a program that provides three extra weeks of schooling for young students, who spend the mornings in classrooms and their afternoons participating in fitness and recreational activities, as well as field trips.

The camp is free of charge. The only cost to parents is sending their children to school with a lunch.

Sue Chanko, a teacher consultant with the Greater Essex County District School Board, is a co-ordinator for the Camp Wonder program.

Chanko told CBC News that the program is being run at 31 area schools this summer. The ministry is paying for 28 of those sites, while the school board is picking up the tab for the remaining three schools.

"Our board really believes in the progress and the achievements of our students in the program," she said. "It's a unique opportunity."

Chanko said the program helps to keep participating students engaged and move them ahead academically, while also helping to ensure they retain the things they have learned during the school year.

Camp fights 'summer-learning losses'

"The primary goal is to minimize summer-learning losses," she said Friday, during an interview on CBC Radio's Windsor Morning.

"With a nine-week summer, there are some students, [for] who that gap continues to widen, year after year. And programs like these work to minimize and reduce that gap over time."

Each of the classes has two teachers present. The classrooms hold groups of 25 or fewer students, Chanko said.

Principals and teachers work together to determine which students would benefit most from enrolment in the program, but Chanko said they do listen to parental input as well.

"There hasn't been much where we find that people just want to take advantage of a free program. Most of the parents really try to do what's best for their kids," said Chanko.

"That's historically what we've found, and if they feel it's a benefit, they do push for it and we try to respond."

'Seven-week benefit'

Chanko said the jump in enrolment is due primarily to research that has suggested participation in the program leaves students with a "seven-week benefit" in terms of the loss in learning that will occur over the summer.

"Our board really goes after more funds because we really believe in the program," she said.

Sue Chanko spoke to CBC Radio's Windsor Morning on Friday about the Camp Wonder program that hundreds of local schoolchildren are participating in this summer. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Rick Pickersgill, one of the teachers in the classroom at Lakeshore Discovery School this summer, said the students taking part in Camp Wonder are enjoying their extra stay at school.

"They love coming," Pickersgill told CBC News in an interview Friday.

Pickersgill said that in the classroom, the students are working on problem-solving strategies using a game type of approach. 

Part of the appeal for the students is the activities they get to take part in during the afternoons, but Pickersgill said it's also the "camp feel" that has been established.

"We have a tent in the background. It kind of just adds to that atmosphere for them," he said.

With a report from the CBC's John Van Dusen


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