Students from prekindergarten to first grade walked around Episcopal’s Growing Wild Day Camp in swimming cover-ups and flip-flops July 18, prepared for the camp-ending Splash Day that, oddly enough, got rained out.
But Julie Pace, who has been teaching prekindergarten for three years at Episcopal, never comes to work without a plan B.
“OK, what would you like?” Pace, face-paint brush in hand, asked student Neva Frances Lambert.
“Do you have brown, like Bonnie Blue Lambert?” Lambert asked.
Bonnie Blue, Pace explained, is Lambert’s family pet, a springer spaniel who sometimes rides in the car to pick her and her brother up from camp.
“We don’t have brown, but how about a white springer spaniel?” Pace asked.
The next request gave Pace, a self-taught face-paint artist, pause.
“A princess unicorn,” said Analise Bowie. Pace thought a bit and came up with a white unicorn and a rainbow horn.
In between face-painting, the students worked on decorating sun visors with animal shapes then moved right into a coloring craft without missing a beat.
“You always have to have a backup to a backup to a backup. You can’t have any downtime,” Pace said, as she and Lindsay Smith, also a teacher there, handed out snacks.
“If you can hear my voice, clap once,” Pace said. “If you can hear my voice now, clap twice,” expertly bringing the cacophony of snack time back to quiet attention.
Growing Up Wild and camps like it serve two purposes for her students, she said. It gives them age-appropriate science lessons — the students took nature walks, made prints from leaves and flowers on light-sensitive photo paper, and created their own faux fossils and went on a archeological dig in one of the outdoor flower beds — and it gets students new to the classroom ready for the school year.
“Of those students who come to camp, we have zero crying on the first day of school,” Pace said.
As their final science project, LSU freshman and Summer Scholars participant Brea Manuel showed the students how to make putty out of glue, and a borax and water solution, and taught them a big new word — polymer.
“This smells like a moose on a goose,” said camper Michael Goodner, while he kneaded his glue in the solution to form the putty. “It smells like a bear on a hair,” he added, giggling, while a classmate burst into the ABC song.
“I love my job,” Pace said, laughing.
For more information on Episcopal camps, visit the school’s website, ehsbr.org.