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To students' delight, Level Creek summer camp mixes disciplines

Photo Intern: Graham Robson
(From left) Catherine Gemmell, Georgia Ames, Elizabeth Hammond work on a puzzle together at Camp Ecology, early Wednesday afternoon. Puzzles were a part of the desert station held at Camp Ecology.

Photo Intern: Graham Robson (From left) Catherine Gemmell, Georgia Ames, Elizabeth Hammond work on a puzzle together at Camp Ecology, early Wednesday afternoon. Puzzles were a part of the desert station held at Camp Ecology.

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Photo Intern: Graham Robson Joannie Waters, a first and second-grade focus teacher, reads to the kids in Camp Ecology on Wednesday afternoon. Waters runs the camp alongside Donna McGinley who is also a teacher at Level Creek Elementary School.

SUWANEE -- Brock Adams enjoyed Camp Ecology so much he came back this year for a second time.

The rising third-grader at Level Creek Elementary attended the science camp last week at the school, which focused on plants, rain forests and deserts.

"I get to see other people that I've seen from the school year, and it's fun being back with them," said Adams, who enjoyed research about the mongoose.

The camp started about six years ago soon after the school opened and parents asked for summer academic camps for their kids. Teacher Donna McGinley, who has been involved in the camp since its inception, said sports camps for all ages, and academic camps for older kids, are readily available around the metro area.

But a "high-quality academic class as a camp setup" wasn't available for children early in elementary school. That's when the camp was born for rising second graders and rising third graders.

It's aimed at students who love to learn and thrive on information above their grade level, Principal Nancy Kiel said. It has 38 students registered this year. McGinley teaches the camp along with Joannie Waters, another Level Creek teacher. It mixes several disciplines, such as science, math, language arts, music, drama and technology. It ran Monday through Thursday with morning and afternoon sessions that were three hours each.

The students enjoyed live animals, a classroom that was transformed into a rain forest, and took home souvenirs from each day's activity.

"It's aimed at high-level learners," McGinley said, "learners looking for a little more of a challenge than their grade level might suggest."

McGinley said the students held a live blue crab, a squid and a grouper, and quickly figured out what the phrase "smells like a dead fish" really means.

Students often ask to expand the camp to older age groups, McGinley said, but the teachers want to ensure quality of the camp.

"We don't want to dilute it just to stretch it out," she said.

That appeal was exhibited as one group exited the computer lab on Wednesday. The students lamented that the camp was just three hours each day.

"We wish it was four hours," McGinley recalled one student saying. "Then somebody said, 'No, eight hours.' Then somebody else said, 'No, 412 hours.'"