By Lindsay Stewart, Program Specialist, Discovery Place
As Discovery Place’s camp coordinator, Lindsay Stewart spends all year looking for ways to bring happiness, excitement, and science education to children.
It’s not always the information or the “stuff” that makes a Camp — it’s the connection Campers make with each other, our staff and our volunteers.
Our Summer Camps presenters and teen apprentice volunteers provide incredible leadership for the Campers, but it’s even more incredible to watch the Campers grow into mentors themselves.
A year ago, we received a nervous first-year Camper who was going into kindergarten in the fall. We often have shy or nervous 5-year-olds, but this one stood out.
Every morning, I went to her car door, opened it with a smile and greeted her by name, like I do with each of my Campers. She never really got out … she sort of oozed, like a non-Newtonian fluid, pouring onto the sidewalk into a puddle.
I took her hand, helped her put on her backpack, made sure she had her lunchbox and would tell her all of the wonderful things she was going to get to do that day, and she’d get a little less nervous. This went on her whole first week, and each day took a little less time because she was excited about seeing her presenter and her apprentice and doing something new.
She opened up in Camp and blossomed, asking questions, playing games with new friends at lunch and sharing her wonderfully whimsical view of the world with anyone she met. She brightened everyone’s day for several weeks in 2013, and all of us were sad to see the summer end.
During Winter Break Camps last year, I was excited to see that she had signed up to join us again. I went to greet her at her car as usual and found another girl sitting beside her.
“This is my best friend,” the Camper said, “and she’s scared, but I told her it was OK and she would have lots of fun!”
Her friend looked skeptical as my Camper bounced out of the car and coaxed her from the sidewalk. Turns out, the best friend was also a non-Newtonian fluid, and she oozed just as slowly. Once both girls were out of the car, I began to reassure my new Camper but was stopped.
“Don’t worry, Miss Lindsay. I’ve got this!” said my returning Camper, who proceeded to take her friend through the Camp day, step-by-step.
They sat side-by-side in the classroom, and I got to witness mentoring at its best — in the caring, understanding figure of a 5-year-old girl. Both girls were beaming at the end of Winter Break Camp and had a hard time saying goodbye.
Getting to watch children learn, grow up and help each other is perhaps the best part of my job as Camp Coordinator, and this is only one of many, many tales I’ve collected since taking up this post in 2012.
I recently learned that both girls are coming back this summer, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I can’t wait to see what unfolds in 2014!
Click here to learn more about Summer Camps at Discovery Place. Sessions are filling fast, so sign up today!