There are two “official” language classes each day, each about 1 ½ hours. The second language is also spoken at meals, during arts & crafts, song & dance, and cooking classes. H.S. counselors often read bedtime stories or teach songs as campers hike to and from activities. Evening activities include all languages, so don’t be surprised if your camper learns a little German or Japanese along with his French lessons!
Are there tests? Is there credit?
Most of our campers are experiencing the new language for the first time, so there are no entrance exams. Some campers have had some prior language and teachers are able to work with them on a higher level. We have had some years with enough older campers to separate them into their own class. That depends upon the number of campers. Because camp is only one week, there is no credit. We have had a number of campers who enter a language program at their home school and are immediately ahead of the game. Most of all, campers learn to relax and enjoy their new language – which makes them more successful language learners.
How are your teachers and counselors chosen? What is their experience and qualifications?
We employ Ohio foreign language teachers, most of whom are members of the Ohio Foreign Language Association. There is one teacher per language. In addition we have two co-directors so that there is always one person available for supervision or emergencies. We have our own nurse for dispensing medications (no child or high school counselor may keep their own meds) who is CPR certified and available 24/7.
High school juniors and seniors are recommended by their foreign language teachers. We use one female and one male for each language. Campers stay in cabins by language and gender, i.e. the Chinese girl campers stay in a cabin with the high school Chinese counselor. Usually all the boys stay in a larger cabin with the male counselors as we typically have only two or three boys in each language. While we need high school counselors with specific language capabilities, we also look at their prior camping experience. Many have been counselors at their district’s 5th or 6th grade camps or have other experience working with elementary kids. We often use counselors for two years so that our high school staff includes experienced as well as new students. In reality, our high school counselors beg to return. They enjoy using their second language and working with the kids for the week.
Are all adults background-checked?
Yes, because they are all teachers, they have been fingerprinted and have current background checks through their home school systems.
How are campers split up? My daughter is on the upper age range, and I don’t want her to be forced to hang out with grade schoolers.
Campers are divided by language. The language groups are usually small, so the teacher is able to individualize by interest and developmental level. In years when we have enough middle school students we separate them as well. For meal times the campers sit by language, but in the evening the activities are multilingual, so campers have the opportunity to socialize with others their own age.
What are the living arrangements? Are there adults assigned to groups of campers 24 hours/day? How do you manage both genders at camp?
Female campers are housed in cabins according to language. A female high school counselor of the same language stays in the same cabin. The boys often stay in one large cabin with the male high school counselors because there may only be two or three of each language. The adults stay in the rooms under the dining hall – in between both sets of campers. Occasionally, if necessary (homesickness, for example), adults will stay with the campers. If a child becomes ill, s/he is taken to the nurse’s station. High school counselors and teachers, co-directors and the nurse have cell phones to keep in communication.
What are your safety policies?
The church campsite that we have used since 2005 has a site manager and an assistant manager who live on site. There is a full kitchen staff that is aware of the allergies or vegetarian or no-pork needs of our camp. We also use the camp’s certified life guards.
No child is ever alone. We enforce rules that use the buddy system and the high school counselors escort campers to and from activities. The kids are busy – unlike other camps we don’t have much free time. We believe that keeping them busy with language lessons, cooking, swimming, arts and crafts, song and dance, scavenger hunts and hikes makes for a very fun learning experience. Sure, we get some homesickness, but it usually only lasts one day out of the week. We also set aside a Skype night with parents so that campers can communicate their fun to their families during the week. And parents can follow us on Facebook, if they choose. No child’s photo is shared if parents prefer and sign paperwork.
What does the daily agenda include? How is the day organized, and will my child be engaged and challenged?
Our campers love learning and we make it a fun experience. We have two “classes” every day, but they also learn their new language at the meal table, through arts and crafts, song and dance. In the evening we have multilingual challenges like Hollywood Squares and scavenger hunts. Below is a sample day’s schedule:
What is a residential camp?
Campers arrive on Sunday afternoon around 3 pm. Parents may escort them to their cabins where their H.S. counselors will greet them and help them get settled. When all campers from one cabin have arrived, they walk to the dining hall together where they say goodbye to their parents. They meet the other campers, counselors, teachers, and directors and begin their week with some get-to-know-you games.
Campers have three meals a day at the dining hall. They also have an evening snack. Activities begin at 8:00 a.m. with breakfast and conclude each evening after snack. Bedtime is between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. Students attend their language, arts & crafts, and song & dance classes by language. They also sit at meals by language. All campers swim and participate in the evening activities together.
No cell phones? No iPods? No iPads? Why not?
Not all cell phones operate at Templed Hills because it is located in a valley. H.S. counselors have a cell or walkie-talkie for communication with the nurse, the teachers and the directors. We also find that cell phones contribute to home sickness! Of course, campers may call home in emergencies. Parents can follow the week on our Facebook page. We also have a Skype night on Wednesday for those who want to talk to their families. We also don’t want lost cell phones, iPods or iPads. This is a week of conversation - in other languages!
Will my child get enough to eat? Can they bring snacks?
Campers receive three full meals a day and a bedtime snack. At breakfast they may choose from a hot entrée, oatmeal or cold cereal. Lunch and dinner include an entrée, a vegetable or salad, bread and butter, and dessert. There is milk or water to drink. The cooks prepare something at each meal for the vegetarians or those campers who cannot eat pork.
In the evening campers enjoy a treat that was prepared earlier in the day by the cooking class. Each language has a morning in the kitchen to cook a culturally appropriate snack.
Do campers need their own snacks? NO! the bugs and the animals are attracted to the food in the cabins, so it is prohibited!
What if my child is allergic to certain foods?
You will complete forms for the nurse and talk to her as you arrive. We like to know before your arrival if your child is allergic to certain foods so that the cooks can plan accordingly. Sometimes, parents have brought special foods along and given them to the nurse – applesauce in cups, for example, to take medicine.
What are the campgrounds like?
CAMP OFLA is now hosted at Pilgrim Hills camp. Check out this website: http://www.journeythehills.org Select “Camp Maps, Virtual Tours" then "Pilgrim Hills" to take your Virtual Tour!