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Fifth graders get a jump on middle school at weeklong summer CAMP

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Eighty 5th grade students who either need help in taking the next step to being in middle school or want to get a head start on the experience attended a weeklong summer CAMP program, Aug. 15-19, at Hillside and Meads Mill middle schools.

The transition from elementary school to middle school is often tough for schoolkids because they are changing schools, changing classes and dealing with school lockers for the first time. The camp gives them a jump start on overcoming fear or anxiety. It also boosts their familiarity with the school, students and teachers. Many who attend are the oldest child in their family and are leading the way for their younger siblings.

This is the sixth year of CAMP (Children Adjusting to Middle school Program), which is sponsored by Northville Youth Assistance under the direction of Sue Campbell. She notes, “The program is designed to help incoming sixth graders build personal, academic and life management skills so they can successfully transition to middle school.”

Three teachers at each school manage 40 children in their classroom. Rather than changing classes to meet with a new teacher, the teachers rotate inside the classroom. No matter the personality of the student – quiet, shy or outgoing – they all tend to have a positive experience.

Meaghan Monk has taught 6th grade English at Hillside since 2003. She leads the students through reading, journaling and discussing some of their hopes and fears, which they write about.

“There’s some public speaking,” Monk said. “Parents fill out a profile and they often state, ‘My child is so shy, they won’t speak all week.’ Yet, their children are among the ones who are sharing a lot. They come out of their shells here.

“The theme is getting to know each other through team-building activities and building relationships,” Monk added. “Many of the children come from different schools and don’t know each other, but by the end of the first day, you would think they were best friends.”

Midway through the camp, the kids go on a field trip to Walled Lake outdoor education center and do the ropes course. Parents attend as chaperones. This year, the students at Hillside made tie-dyed Hillside Raider t-shirts in school and wore them on the field trip, which showed school spirit and helped identify the group.

The students eat lunch together in the cafeteria and every day have to sit with someone new. The teachers coach them in making small talk, suggesting they ask other students about their siblings and share one thing they learned that day.

They do have homework. They are asked to talk about their day with the family while eating dinner together. Some of the kids say, “We don’t eat dinner together as a family.” The teachers suggest they make an effort to do so. Monk said, “One young girl came to school the next day and said she made dinner for her grandmother and they talked about her school day – she was very happy they did that.”

Social studies teacher Pamela White said, “That early connection – between students and teachers and among students – makes all the difference. It lets them know, ‘We care about you, that’s why we’re here. We all want to feel like we belong.’”

Phillip (Phil) Timm teaches the kids physical education. Some of the kids’ favorite activities are forming a circle and holding hands, then passing a hula hoop up and over everyone in that circle without letting go of each other’s hand. Timm works with them on team-building exercises. They love lightening basketball where they get to practice their shooting.

White helps acclimate the students to the Hillside Middle School building. They learn where the classrooms are and how to set up their day. One exercise is to give each pair of students a schedule with a map of the school and two different-colored highlighters so they can map out a route for their “A” day and “B” day, when their classes vary. On Friday, they walk those routes to make sure they’ve got time to get to their classrooms, their locker, the bathroom and cafeteria.

At Hillside, there are about 350 students in 6th grade and about 10 percent of them will have attended CAMP. Those who don’t attend the program still have a transition day prior to the start of school where they can come in and try out their locker combination, look at the rooms and meet the teachers.

At Meads Mills, CAMP teachers are Amy Soukup and Julianne Howells, both 6th grade teachers, and Mike Soukup, physical education teacher. Kristie Bilbie-Bikius is the counselor.

Because space is limited at the summer CAMPs, counselors and learning consultants discuss the program with 5th grade teachers and ask them which students they think will benefit from it. Then, those parents are contacted. However, parents don’t need a school recommendation to sign up their 5th grade child for CAMP. To register for the summer 2017 program, contact Sue Campbell at 248.344.1618.

The cost of the program is $170. Scholarships are given annually for students in need.



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