Community House camp builds more than computer skills

July 25, 2005 2:56 p.m.
Computer Camp

Christopher Ramos (background), a camp counselor and member of Princeton's class of 2005, works with campers Patrick (seated) and Kevin to edit footage of their digital newscast during a recent session of the Community House computer camp.

Below left: From left, Sahmone delivers her weather report as counselor Rochelle Guthrie and camper Monica provide the backdrop and another student, Chelsea, captures the footage with a digital camcorder.

Photos: Denise Applewhite

Outside the Fields Center on a scorching morning last week, the topic of discussion was, naturally, the weather.

Rather than complaining about the heat in Princeton, however, 11-year-old Sahmone was delivering a weather report for a newscast written by and starring local youngsters participating in the annual Community House computer camp. The project is one of many creative offerings at the camp, which combines computer literacy programs with a range of academic and social activities.

The six-week camp, which runs through Aug. 12, includes about two dozen local students from grades 6-8. Several of the counselors are current Princeton students and recent graduates. The camp is funded by an anonymous Princeton graduate, the Pace Center, the Office of Religious Life and the Geraldine Dodge Foundation.

For the newscast project, campers worked from newspaper articles to develop scripts for news, sports and weather reports. They filmed the segments in and around the Fields Center on tiny digital camcorders and uploaded them onto laptop computers. Working with video editing software, they pieced the segments together and added music to produce cohesive newscasts.

Computer Camp

"We're getting used to using the cameras and being in front of them," Sahmone said. "You have to be perfect."

Malikhia, 12, added, "We get to write our own scripts, film them and actually see them. I like working with the other kids -- it's really fun."

In addition to producing the newscasts, the campers are improving their technological skills by building computer-controlled robots, making PowerPoint presentations and designing brochures. The computer programs are augmented by a range of activities, such as math and writing exercises, photography, yoga, breakdancing, discussions on stereotypes and other social issues, and even a game of "Jeopardy."

"It's more of a summer enrichment camp," said Christopher Ramos, a 2005 graduate of Princeton who is one of the counselors. "Usually summer camp implies just athletics, but we stress a lot of academics."

"We have an academic core to reinforce their writing, reading and math abilities, and we try to keep them thinking through different activities," said camp coordinator Joseph Robinson, also a member of the class of 2005.

Handy, an 11-year-old camper, said he enjoyed creating the computer-controlled robots and serving as both a camera operator and entertainment news reporter for his broadcast team.

"I like working with all of the teachers on great projects," he said.