In a summer with record-breaking temperatures, it’s easy to see why Regent Park/Duke of York Junior Public School grade 5 student Ibraheem Idroos might prefer spending his days at Greenwood College School.
“They have air conditioning,” he said gleefully.
Ibraheem was one of dozens of kids who took part in the inaugural year of Greenwood’s Connections program, a free summer day camp for kids from the Regent Park school.
Others, like Rida Ahmed, who said her favourite activity at the summer camp was rock climbing, were just happy to get outside.
“There’s more field trips, it’s more fun,” she said. “Last year (at school) we never went on (a field trip).”
The students, ranging from grades 3–5, get to participate in the month-long program that features arts and crafts, sports, reading and media activities.
The program was created to provide students from the neighbourhood with an opportunity to exercise their academic skills while having fun, said Erin Porter, a teacher in Greenwood’s mathematics and Canada world studies departments.
“What happens in the summer with kids, is that there’s a slide back in terms of their skills, so anything that happens during the year, some of those things are lost,” she said.
Porter said that the Connections program, with an emphasis on literacy, aims to keep kids in good shape both physically and mentally over the summer months.
“What we’re trying to do is provide them with an inspirational experience that reinforces and enriches the skills learned
during the year,” she said. “So that way when they go back in September, they’re one step further ahead than students that wouldn’t have had this opportunity.”
The program was able to come to fruition with the help of parents of a Greenwood alumnus.
The Davisville area school runs a weekly initiative during the year called the Regent Park Reading Buddies program. Students in grades 10–12 read with youth from Regent Park/Duke of York to gain community service hours.
One of the participant’s parents wanted to see the program continue into the summer, and donated a sum of money that would allow them to run the program for two consecutive summers.
Since the entire student population at the Regent Park school could not be accommodated, teachers selected students on the basis of good attendance, behaviour and the likelihood of them benefiting from an enrichment program.
For Sam Tanenbaum, a 2011 Greenwood alumna who decided to volunteer for the summer camp, the Connections program allows her to practise a skill of her own that she’s developing: teaching.
“When I’m teaching something, and the light goes off for me, I realize ‘Wow, this is what it’s like to be a teacher,’” she said. “This has helped me see what it’s like and if I’m any good at it.”
Tanenbaum may not get paid, but she earns great satisfaction from watching the children develop.
“For a kid who’s struggled with reading and literacy, it’s such a big deal to be able to come and do that all day, and have fun while doing it,” she said.
To Porter, one of the most beneficial aspects of the program is simply to provide kids with a new, positive experience.
“It’s an opportunity to be inspired, to see another community in Toronto and to get to do some things that they may never get to do otherwise.”