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Moorhead students encounter faith, learning, fun at St. Joseph summer program

By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND

Moorhead – From praying together each morning to crafts, visitors, swimming at the pool and taking field trips, kids at St. Joseph’s Summer Day Camp Program stay busy exploring, playing and learning.

The program began in 1993 and keeps students entering kindergarten through eighth grade active throughout the summer in an atmosphere of faith.

Parents can sign kids up for the whole summer or pick and choose weeks to attend. The program weaves the Catholic faith throughout with scripture-based morning prayer time, blessing snacks and meals, incorporating religious crafts, attending Mass each Thursday and dedicating a week to Vacation Bible School.

Amanda McNamee, a fourth-grade teacher at St. Joseph’s, is in her first year running the summer program. She said the average enrollment each week is 20 students.

From the end of May through the third week in August, weekly themes are explored. This year some are: look what I can do, music, chef, pay it forward, beach and fairytale. Mornings are spent focused on theme-based activities, sometimes including visitors from the community. Most afternoons include fieldtrips to the library, pool, or other locations related to the theme.

“It is a familiar sight to see the kids rolling off the bus at 3 p.m. completely exhausted from their adventures for the day,” said St. Joseph School Principal Andrew Hilliker.

During Chef Week, June 24-28, students made ice cream, pizza, pigs in a blanket, ants on a log and trail mix. McNamee said they were excited to make and try different things.

Allison Fulton, currently the Development Director for St. Joseph School, ran the afterschool and summer programs there for four years beginning in 2012. She feels changing themes keeps the camp interesting.

“The themes are a great way to encourage new families to try a camp out and also helps our regular campers try new things,” Fulton said.

She added that staying engaged in learning throughout the summer months helps contribute to a lifetime thirst for learning.

“The summer program is a safe place to try new things, ask questions and get involved in the world around them. It really is a perfect match for all we do here at the school during the school year,” Fulton said.

She noted the summer program helps fill a gap in care for kids who have outgrown traditional daycare settings but are not ready to stay home alone or would rather be involved in activities.

“The students get to build relationships with kids of all ages which creates great bonds that carry over into the school year,” Fulton said. “I also think it’s important to have faith-based summer opportunities in our community so that kids can continue to live out their faith and talk about it with other children with ease.”

Kathy Fulks, a current kindergarten teacher at St. Joseph School, was the founding director of the program. She sees a wide range of advantages to the program.

“Parents benefited knowing their children would be cared for in a familiar setting that would continue to support their Catholic faith and values. The children are able to continue the friendships they have made during the school year and they really become a family. The school benefits by having the year-round care,” she said.

Hilliker stated the program positively influences the school.

“We have had students enroll in the school because they experienced the Summer Program,” he said. “Educationally speaking, the Summer Program is engaging, and I truly believe it prevents the real ‘summer slide’ that occurs in learning.”

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