Although she is not new to The New Century School, Jennifer Hodapp is new to her administrative role as TNCS Summer Camp Director. Sra. Hodapp began at TNCS last year as a Spanish-speaking assistant teacher in the primary classrooms. At the start of the 2014–2015 school year, she will take over the elementary Spanish program. And, in between, she is running summer camp like a seasoned pro!
“From parent and staff feedback, I can say that camp is going well,” she said smiling. “In terms of organization, camp themes, and overall camper participation, everyone seems to be pleased with how this year is shaping up.” That’s no surprise, given Sra. Hodapp’s track record. She brings tremendous enthusiasm and commitment to whatever task she has turned her attention to at TNCS and beyond, as described in an earlier post this year.
Although, in general, a lot has stayed the same over the course of the few years TNCS has offered summer camp, refinements have been made so that this year, the programming (divided into pre-primary, primary, and elementary) is especially exciting and well suited to the tastes of the bright, energetic campers in attendance. One aspect that particularly appeals to Sra. Hodapp—a “heritage” Spanish speaker and a firm believer in the benefits of multilingualism—is that pre-primary Spanish and Mandarin Immersion camps were merged, so that 2- and 3-year-old campers get both simultaneously. That might sound complicated, but it’s working, and Sra. Hodapp is hearing positive feedback. It may help that vocabulary is inspired by summery things, like the sea, so that the kids are already in that mindset. Sra. Hodapp observes when she can and is amazed to see how quickly the littlest campers are able to follow instructions given by instructors Sras. Ramos and Gonzalez and Li Laoshi, to get their own materials, and to find their places during “circle time.” Lucky pre-primary campers also get to participate in the popular carry-over from last year, Water Playday!
Primary camps have progressed in 2-week blocks and have included Movement, Sing-a-Song, Cooking & Gardening, and Spanish Fiesta. Cooking and gardening, says Sra. Hodapp, is far and away the most popular so far (although summer is only half over, and there are plenty of great things ahead!). Elementary camps are largely third-party hosted, including Lego Camp, The Painting Workshop, and—exclusive to TNCS and grant-funded—Startalk.
Another aspect that Sra. Hodapp says is a bit different this year is that a larger proportion of campers are not already-enrolled TNCS students. As part of its commitment to be a part of and to serve a larger community, TNCS welcomes kids from all over, from any school. This makes camp look and feel different from school, and this is also very important to Sra. Hodapp. “The kids are relaxed and enjoying this,” she said. “They’re having fun!” After all, this is summer break, and although that shouldn’t be an excuse to turn brains completely off, it should also offer kids the chance to lighten up a little (see “Making Summer Count” for more). Sra. Hodapp has this balance very much in mind and is making sure campers are engaged, happy, and having fun in creative and educational ways. Make no mistake—the kids really know the difference. If parents mistakenly refer to TNCS summer camp as “school,” their kids are quick to correct them: “No, this is camp!” Sounds like a clear indicator of its success!
Of course, as is everything at TNCS, this successful venture is a collaborative effort. “This is my first directorship,” said Sra. Hodapp, “and it has been quite a learning experience. But I couldn’t do this without the rest of the amazing summer staff—Robin Munro and Lindsay Duprey as well as all of the truly wonderful teachers, assistants, and aftercare leaders!” What “this” is amounts to is just about everything that goes on in a day on the campus. “Our number one priority is keeping everyone safe,” she said. She makes several rounds per day, checking and rechecking everything from the security gates to the catered lunches to voice- and email messages. “Communication is key, as I have learned very quickly. We’re so busy all day that sometimes it’s difficult for all of us to stay connected, so I implemented a communication log to record parent, teacher, and aftercare staff messages and questions to make sure that nothing slips through the cracks.”
Would she consider a future directorship? “I am certainly enjoying this, but I do really miss teaching! I like to be with the kids; that’s where I need to be during the school year.”
“I want to continue to grow here,” she said in closing. Doubtless, she will exceed this goal while contributing enormously to the school, as she has done since first joining the TNCS community! Enjoy the rest of the summer!