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Second annual Camp DIVE expands opportunities for students, teachers

About 80 Clarke County children will spend a month immersed in history, reading and STEM projects—among others—as the second year of Camp DIVE launches June 5.

The annual program is a partnership between the University of Georgia and the Clarke County School District. With the aim of preventing "summer slide," Camp DIVE (Discover, Inquire, Voice, and Explore) brings together faculty from UGA's College of Education, students from the college and across UGA, and Clarke County teachers to provide opportunities for children in kindergarten through eighth grade to continue learning during the summer—at no cost to parents.

This year Camp DIVE takes place at Alps Road Elementary School and expands on some of the topics introduced last year. For example, students will do math games, tell stories through community building and explore Athens history during the Civil Rights movement. And like last year, programming involves nonprofits and other community partners; this year their hands-on lessons will be integrated into the daily curriculum. For example, children will receive books from Books for Keeps if they did not receive them at school or take part in trapeze at Canopy Studio.

Janna Dresden, director of the UGA College of Education's Office of School Engagement, said schedule changes this year will allow students to spend more time on the specialized classroom topics. "We learned from last year to have fewer transitions for the kids, so these engaging and fun learning experiences would be longer for them," she said.

The fact that so many children chose to come back for a second year is a testament to the unique programming, she added. This year's camp filled up quickly, with nearly three-fourths of last year's attendees returning. Classroom topics are created by faculty, who designed lessons in non-traditional formats that are guided by research. "And it was fun," Dresden added. "It was interesting and engaging, and we did so many things."

The annual camp works on several levels. Not only do Clarke County children have a safe, engaging, positive in-school experience that keeps them learning through the summer, but the camp also provides an opportunity for UGA students to earn course credit or volunteer as they learn about new teaching methods. It's also a chance for Clarke County teachers to get some hands-on training in the latest teaching methods.

This year Camp DIVE includes even more Clarke County teachers to assist with the programming. "It's our hope that current teachers and preservice teachers will get to try out different classroom strategies, with the hope that they will bring them back to their own classrooms," added Dresden. "And we know that after introducing this last year, this was successful."

Dresden noted a class taught by professor Bob Capuozzo that integrated play into learning. Several Clarke County teachers taught alongside Capuozzo during last year's Camp DIVE, and then used the approach in their own classrooms this past year.

Camp DIVE builds off the Professional Development School District partnership between the Clarke County School District and the University of Georgia, which places preservice teachers in classrooms throughout the county, and also provides faculty as mentors and resources in many schools. This year's Camp DIVE includes students from 14 Clarke County elementary and middle schools and takes place June 5-30.