Virtual camp was a win-win
I introduce my stuffed lion as the “Eye Contact Police.” The students giggle. “He’s just a stuffed animal!” they say. Despite that, the students do focus on their computer cameras when speaking. Mission accomplished.
This past Thanksgiving break, five friends and I hosted a three-day virtual camp. The camp was part of a program I started in the summer, Yes Learn! With support from the Bellaire Future Problem Solvers club and led by co-presidents Annie and Shirley Zhu, the goal was to serve local students.
We taught 18 students (K-8) from around Houston. While some courses, such as math, were intended to help students review concepts learned in school, we also offered classes beyond the standard curriculum – public speaking, Model United Nations, creative writing, and government – to help students explore new interests. We donated the tuition, totaling more than $600, to UNICEF USA, selected for its mission of bringing education and healthcare to all children.
Camp was a win-win for students and instructors. For students, camp offered a fun way to learn, even during a school break. Our students grew. One mother of a shy second grader noted that “she opened up” through our public speaking course. Varun Manickam, a freshman at Bellaire High who taught government, loved seeing his students gain political potential.
For the instructors, camp was an opportunity to share our interests. Charlie Adams, a junior at Bellaire High who taught creative writing, cherished the opportunity to show students the fun of poetry and memoirs. I chose to teach public speaking because it has helped me grow confident in speech and debate; additionally, teaching Model United Nations helped me share my passion for its collaborative nature. The joy of shared learning was contagious and built our motivation to keep teaching.
Besides Charlie, Varun (who also taught math), and me, Margaret He (sophomore at Emery/Weiner) taught math, and Lucy Ma (sophomore at Bellaire High) and Emerald Tang (eighth grader at Lanier Middle School) assisted in public speaking. The support of our instructors, students, and parents was essential to the camp’s success.
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