Camping and a lot of reading

If you closed your eyes, you could have imagined the burning brushwood of the campfire and the fragrant pine trees all around, the chirp of crickets in the background and an owl hooing in the night.
 
Tracy Church recently transformed her first grade classroom into a campsite for two days of outdoor-themed learning. Binders taped onto desktops and dollar-store tablecloths converted desks into tents, which were put into a circle. A cardboard fire burned in the center of the room.
 
“This has been a tough year for students, especially with no field trips or assemblies,” said Church. “I really wanted to do something special that could still be safe.”
 
And so Camp Read-a-lot was born.
 
Over a Thursday and Friday, the class read camping books together such as “Ready Freddy Camping Catastophe,” “Curious George Goes Camping” and “Pete the Cat Goes Camping.” Students also read independently using their personalized reading boxes which include books at their own individual Lexile levels.
 
There were camping activities, too. The first-graders fished for sight words from a plastic pool and made crafts such as a paper chain-snake.
 
The room mother, Lindsey Erlandson, added her own special touches that helped make the day memorable for students. Erlandson, who owns an Etsy shop, etsy.com/shop/sweettalkdesigns, made tent tags with each camper’s name and camping survival bags for each student. Each bag included binoculars, a reading buddy bear, a magnifying glass, bottled water, crayons, a bookmark, a camping picture frame craft, stickers, and a “Smart Camper” flag. The students used the binoculars and magnifying glasses on a nature walk around the school.
 
“I think kids will remember this event as a high point of the year,” Church said. “And I hope it inspires them to keep reading all summer.”

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