Day camp gives kids a (robotic) hand
Academic focus gives campers head start over the summer
Classes at Westview Centennial Secondary School won’t start until September, but on this sweltering July morning, its halls are practically buzzing.
While many students might be enjoying free time at home, these kids are at the school near Jane and Finch Sts. for summer camp, filling their days with science experiments, games and field trips. It’s their chance to get ahead academically during their months off, catapulting them toward better opportunities.
“It’s critically important that the two months of summer we use in a productive way,” said the MP for the area, Judy Sgro, who visited the camp Tuesday. The camp, run by the San Romanoway Revitalization Association, doesn’t just provide an opportunity for the neighbourhood’s children to improve academically. The kids also get to visit beaches, the Toronto Zoo and theme parks — chances many of them don’t often get.
Much of this is thanks to the generosity of the Star’s readers who have donated to the Fresh Air Fund. The San Romanoway camp is one of 52 day camps that receives contributions from the fund; 50 overnight camps get contributions from the fund as well.
Joseph Atkinson, the Star’s founder, started the Fresh Air Fund in 1901 as a way to give underprivileged children from downtown Toronto the chance to get real camp experiences. Much of what San Romanoway campers do is academic, but the kids are most excited for swimming — a relief from Toronto summers, said camp supervisor Rosa Ramirez. On Tuesday, campers met York University students from Let’s Talk Science, a charity that does sciencerelated outreach in schools, to do activities and experiments.
In one task, campers were chal- lenged to build a robotic arm using materials such as Popsicle sticks, rubber bands and tape.
In a matter of minutes, one group had pulled together a contraption that could lift objects from the floor to a table. The children cheered, then turned their attention toward scheming about possibilities for a field trip to the Ontario Science Centre later in the week.
Daniel Bayonos, 8, said he wants to be an astronaut and loves the science activities at camp the most.
“You can learn more and tell the other kids, and they can tell other kids and everyone will change the world,” he said.
Though the camp is only for those ages 5 to 12, alumni often come back to volunteer. Joi Francis, 12, is one of the volunteer junior counsellors this year. She started coming to camp here six years ago.
“It’s a good opportunity,” she said. “You’re ahead and you know what to do.”