Stratton camp's lessons stress community, respect for environment

CHAMPAIGN — Learning to be good citizens, help others and remember the environment — summer camp at Champaign's Stratton Microsociety and Leadership Magnet School is tackling all these in a fun environment.

The camp is using the Microsociety focus, which has students during the regular school year running businesses, nonprofits and their own government in a society called Strattonville.

The summer camp is using the Microsociety focus to encourage learning about reducing, reusing and recycling, said Charles West, Stratton's magnet site coordinator.

About 20 students heading into second through fifth grades are participating.

Wednesday, students started with an icebreaker that had two students standing on either side of a plastic curtain. As teachers pulled the curtain down, students raced to remember each other's names first.

Once they separated into smaller groups, teacher Matthew Trueblood and six students learned about community using lessons from "The Rainbow Fish," about a fish who has to share his sparkling scales in order to make friends.

The students gave suggestions of what might happen next, and why, as he read.

Then they talked about what it means to be a part of a community, and how students are residents of their towns but also members of the Stratton summer camp community.

They made lists of jobs, and Trueblood reminded them to think of jobs that would serve their fellow campers at Stratton.

Then, using coffee filters, markers and warm water, they started making their own rainbow fish craft project. They wet the colored coffee filters down to give them a watercolored appearance, and took them outside to dry. Then, they headed back into the classroom to teach another class how they did it.

Next week, the students will participate in ventures, or businesses, centered around the latter. Campers have taken or will be taking field trips to the University of Illinois' recycling center on campus; The I.D.E.A. Store, a creative reuse store run by the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation; and the Sailfin Pet Shop, to learn more about animals that benefit when students recycle.

The idea is to show students what happens after a piece of paper is placed in a recycle bin, West said.

Students in Trueblood's class were still talking Wednesday about Tuesday's trip to the recycling center.

Mackenzie Young talked about watching cardboard being baled together and said she thinks the field trips are the best part of camp. Young, who is 8, goes to Unity West and will be a third-grader next year.

She was coloring with Jovianne Pembele, who attends Stratton and liked that she was making new friends at camp.

Some students at the camp go to Stratton, but other attend different Champaign elementary schools and some aren't even in the school district.

West said the camp is designed to get students thinking about a larger community, rather than what's happening in "their own little bubble," West said.

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