Summer camp to run with new STEM program

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Registration for the fourth summer of fun and learning enrichment with the Munchkin Summer Camp will open on Thursday, March 1.

The Munchkin Summer Camp (also known as MSC) mission states that they strive to, “provide a fun, safe and successful program for students to learn and grow during the summer.” They work to prevent summer learning loss through daily reading goals, out of town field trips and multiple forms of academic enrichment.

Munchkin Summer Camp grew out of one chance experience. Nicole Jordan Halley and a friend were driving to the lake on a summer day when suddenly two children on bikes swerved out in front of their car. Halley and her friend recognized the kids from their jobs at the after-school program.

After narrowly avoiding a terrible accident, the children began cursing at the women.

Instead of putting that moment away in a mental file marked “Kids These Days,” the women saw an opportunity to make something great for Winters.

Halley says that when she looked at those children, she thought to herself, “These kids need something to do.” The idea for the Munchkin Summer Camp was born.

Three years later the program has only grown, thanks in part to community donations. This summer they are expecting 160 students to sign up, and all their activities will be funded by donations from the people of Winters.

This year there will be two camp sessions, the first from Monday, June 11-Friday, June 29 and the second from Monday, July 2-Friday, July 20. The camp runs from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with a breakfast served at 8 a.m. The camp is open to children going into first grade through to children going into eighth grade, with classes separated by grade.

There are also opportunities for eight high school students to get involved as interns. These students will assist the younger children during the camps and gain valuable work experience.

While there is not a bilingual component to the program, Halley says that most of the teachers in the program speak Spanish, so any child or family who needs help with translation can be accommodated.

Once in the camp the children participate in a myriad of activities. In between the time set aside for free play, field trips, presentations and weekly trips to the pool, the students participate in the library’s summer reading program and take drama and music classes. Fourth through eighth graders learn to play the ukulele, while the younger classes get lessons in rhythm and song.

The students also participate in theater games, to get the kids up and moving, Halley explains. She says that many of the students that come to the camp have never seen a play, so the program strives to bring some drama into the schedule.

The classes also participate in art projects. Some classes work entirely with items from nature.

“We use a lot of recycled items for crafts,” Halley says, to help keep the cost of the program low.

MSC is learning and growing with each summer session.

“It has evolved. The basics have remained the same,” Halley explains, “Just how we go about it has evolved.”

This year MSC will be including STEM projects, with the support of two teachers from the district. STEM refers to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Halley explained that it will enhance the science curriculum that the program has provided in past years, by combining these fields of information in projects.

The program also includes four out of town field trips that all classes attend. Along with trips to The Scoop and Brendan Theaters, students this year will be visiting the Crocker Art Museum and the California History Museum. There will also be trips to Lake Solano, a tour of Lester Farms Bakery and a nature walk at Putah Creek.

These are the kinds of activities that community donations fund. Halley explains that they keep the cost of tuition low to keep the program accessible. The tuition goes to paying the teachers, and the donations go toward supplies, special presentations, field trips, and the healthy meals and snacks that the program provides.

Registration begins on Thursday, March 1. Packets can be found at the front offices at Waggoner Elementary School and Shirley Rominger Intermediate School, all Winters After School Program Classrooms and City Hall.

Registrations packets and tuition payments must be turned into City Hall during business hours, Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Donations to the Munchkins Summer camp can be made payable to “City of Winters—Munchkin Summer Camp” and can be mailed to City of Winters—MSC, 318 First Street, Winters, CA 95694.

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