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Camp BDK celebrates final season

Posted: June 30, 2011 3:31 p.m.
Updated: July 1, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Since 2009, Camp BDK has provided summer academic enrichment activities to as many as 94 local elementary school students.

Students enrolled in the seven-week summer program at Baron DeKalb Elementary School (BDK) have participated in a variety of activities, including basket-weaving, photography and swimming lessons, as well as classes provided by local artists -- all at no cost to their parents.

But next year, the camp will have to close its doors.

“The grant that we received for the summer program was a three-year grant, so this is our last year. And because of all of the budget cuts -- this is a federal grant -- the grants are not even being offered at this time to rewrite it,” said BDK teacher and camp director Donna Farnum. “We’ll have to wait and see if we can try again for another grant. But right now it looks like this is it.”

After refusing to complain about the Kershaw County School District’s budget shortfall two years ago, Farnum -- along with Frederica Brown, Robin Sowell and Lucinda Howell -- decided to write a grant for a highly competitive $80,000 summer enrichment program sponsored by 21st Century Learning Centers.

Since then, students have gone on weekly educational field trips to various cities in South Carolina and Georgia. Those trips included a 2010 overnight field trip to Atlanta where students attended an Atlanta Braves baseball game and visited the Dr. Martin Luther King Historic Site and Atlanta Aquarium.

“This summer, we’ve been to the (S.C.) State Museum, Boone Hall Plantation and Palmetto Island State Park. Last week, we kept it simple and went bowling,” Farnum said. “This Friday we’re going to the Discovery Place in Charlotte. And our last trip will be to Myrtle Beach, where we’ll go to Myrtle Beach State Park and Wonder Works.”

When students aren’t busy traveling around the state, they’re participating in academic activities in the school. Making sure students continue to work on math, reading and writing skills during the summer, Farnum said, helps prevent them from forgetting lessons and skills acquired during the previous school year.

“Every day, we have 30 minutes of reading time, where they’re able to read and take Accelerated Reader tests. We have computer time, where they have programs that boost them up in math and language arts, and we have writing time every day,” she added.

Additionally, the students write a newsletter each week and are currently working on creating their own water safety brochures.

“It’s wonderful, because so many of them would be just sitting at home and watching TV. They’re learning, but we try not to make it stressful like the regular school year, so it’s fun,” Farnum said.

Having the opportunity to provide students with new opportunities, said BDK fourth-grade teacher Sophia Knight, is what makes Camp BDK so worthwhile.

“The expression on kids’ faces when we take them on trips to places that they’ve never been before -- just to see that excitement and know that you’ve provided them with an experience that they’ve never had before and may never have again, that’s what I love. It’s going to be hard to see the program end, because in the rural part (of the county), the kids don’t have many opportunities,” she said. “And being a Title I school, they don’t have the money to do these kinds of trips. So, the children who come behind this group will be at a real disadvantage.”

As she watched painter and art teacher Lynn Hiltz Miller assist students with painting a mural highlighting the three years of summer camp on the wall, Farnum said it breaks her heart to know the grant will end this year.

“This program is just full of things, and the kids just love it. Every year we just try to improve it a little more, and we say, ‘How we are going to top last year?”’ Farnum said. “Maybe something will come up for next year, maybe something will turn around and the money will be offered again. But right now, I’m sorry to say that this may be it.”

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