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Tadmore Elementary folds camp activities into summer school
Students eat at 'mess hall' and roast marshmallows
From left, Anthony Lagos, Katie Soseby, Anahi Contreras, Josue Trejo, Elicha Hale and Drew Stone pass around and try to solve math problems written on beach balls as they toss them around a circle Thursday morning in Amy Gillespie’s first-grade math class. The game is part of the Tadmore Elementary summer school program called Camp Tadmore. - photo by Michelle Boaen Jameson

When Tadmore Elementary School students show up for summer school, their first order of the day is to march off for breakfast in the mess hall.

That's because these 120 students are not just at summer school — they've spent the past month at Camp Tadmore.

"Once we turned it into summer camp, kids wanted to be here," Tadmore Assistant Principal Judy Mancuso said.

"We got the teachers on board. They've got tents in their rooms, one teacher's got an inflatable pool. The kids are just eating it up."

Mancuso said on the first day of class, students not on summer school rosters showed up at the bus stops wanting to go to Camp Tadmore.

Principal Robin Gower said she asked a student if she was ready for class to start.

"She said, ‘No, Ms. Gower. I'm here for camp,'" Gower said.

All the Tadmore teachers — or camp counselors — sport T-shirts featuring the school's mascot roasting a marshmallow off his hook.

Students are still getting the remediation and enrichment they need, but in a nontraditional atmosphere they're enjoying.

"All the teachers are very nice. It's just really fun," said 10-year-old Belinda Mercado. "It has to be one of my favorite camps I've ever been to."

Mancuso said on the first day of summer school, she told the 120 "campers" they would receive a camp treat for coming. She gave each student a stick and a marshmallow to roast.

"You'd think I gave them a million dollars," she said of their reaction.

Tadmore's summer school is for rising first- through fifth-graders. Each day has three one-hour periods of math, science and reading.

"Every day, the first thing we do is gather around the campfire and read as a group," fifth-grade teacher Karen Jackson said.

"When we do individual reading they can read anywhere, including the tent."

Even Jackson's curriculum reflects a camp motif.

The class is reading the sequel to "Hatchet," to go along with "the theme of being lost in the wilderness," Jackson said.

Camp Tadmore is not lost on math classes, either.

First-grade students gather around the inflatable pool in Amy Gillespie's classroom and throw beach balls covered in addition and subtraction problems at each other.

"The best thing is to write about math," Nancy Contreras, 7, said. "We learn about math and reading and how to make a (tie-dye) shirt. I'm super happy."