By: Jillian Klatt
This Wednesday was the last day of the first official Superhero Summer Camp! The students have spent the past month learning how to fight off bad guys—the “Unthinkables”—like Brain Eater, Mean Jean, Glass Man, and Rock Brain. They have found out what super powers they already have inside of them, as well as how to work hard to master new skills that will help them with their social and communicative skills! To celebrate how far the kids have come in just a few short lessons, this last day of camp was dedicated to letting them choose the path they would decide to take to best fit their personal super powers.
Mrs. O and Mrs. M started the day by reading a story called Ping and Pong are Best Friends (Mostly) by Tim Hopgood (2013). The story is about a penguin named Ping who believes that his friend Pong is better than him at everything, so Ping decides to give up and do nothing. Soon Ping and Pong miss doing things together, though, and they miss each other too. Pong tells Ping that he is the best something—Ping is the best at being a friend! On top of the comprehension, auditory processing, and vocabulary skills that the students develop by being read to, this story reminded the kids that each and every one of them has a talent or superpower, even if they do not quite recognize it yet! Mrs. O and Mrs. M encouraged the students not to let any of the Unthinkables ruin their last day of summer camp, or any day from here on out, and to focus on spending the day by doing what makes them happy, leaning into the things they already love to do while not being afraid to try new things out of fear of “not being good enough.”
To give the students as much productive autonomy as possible, Mrs. O and Mrs. M set up numerous options for each activity planned. For creative development, the students were allowed to use any of the art materials from past camp days to make one last masterpiece that is all their own. It was incredible watching all of the different ways students decided to make art, using anything from pencils to chalk to filled water balloons. Students were even mixing their own paint colors and writing stories to go along with their works of art! Listening to the students explain their creations to each other with such pride, as well as encourage and compliment one another, made my heart swell with joy.
The rest of the day involved various forms of free play. The students were allowed to choose what they wanted to do and who they wanted to play with. Giving students room to make decisions that align with their personal interests ensures they will stay engaged and offers built-in social play partners that are more likely to interact meaningfully. The older students had a blast playing group field games with Mrs. O, while the younger students gravitated toward the toys on the WonderBus. The bus was an even bigger hit than usual with the new slide extension Mrs. O installed!
As a final Superhero send off, Mrs. O had specially-made plaques for each of the camp helpers. The students each put a thumbprint on the plaques, their own individual superhero signature! As bittersweet as it was to see all the students go, it is wonderful to know there are 15 new superheroes flying around town, equipped with so many new skills and so much confidence!