Igniting the desire within each child has been the Camp Fire First Texas way for more than a century. Camp Fire Day Camps did so this summer with reading as the backdrop.

“It is our goal that youth have an opportunity to find their spark, or inner passions, and discover ways and have opportunities to develop them,” said Christy Jones, Camp Fire Vice President of Marketing & Communications. “What better way to explore, learn and grow a passion than reading about it, applying what is learned in tangible, hands-on project-based learning.

“We hoped this summer’s program would demonstrate the possibilities to grow those interests are all connected through literature. We also used the scholars’ program as a way for our teens to serve in a mentoring capacity as they read to and encouraged the joy of reading with the younger day campers.”

Camp Fire took part in Read Fort Worth’s Summer Scholars Collaborative, 12 programs at more than 60 sites serving more than 3,000 kids. Each program contained a purposeful literacy component designed to help curb “summer slide,” the loss of literacy levels between school years.

Camp Fire Day Camps in Fort Worth ran for 10 weeks from early June through August, with attendance of at least 80 children across two sites. Some of the kids repeated camps, allowing for the program to build on itself to provide an even richer outcome.

Camp Fire’s ties to the area and Fort Worth ISD are rich. Founded in 1914, Camp Fire has helped shape youth and families by serving Tarrant, Parker, Wise, Hood, Johnson and Denton counties. The organization has grown into one of the largest councils in the United States with programs for boys and girls that include everything from camping to school readiness.

Camp Fire has been affiliated with the Fort Worth After School program as a site program provider for more than 10 years. In addition, the organization has led coordinated efforts in improving early learning preparation and school readiness that includes early literacy, math and social emotional preparedness since the early 2000s. Camp Fire also offers a Teens In Action program for students ages 11-plus in Kirkpatrick and Meacham middle schools, and North Side and Diamond Hill high schools. This year-round program focuses on building confidence and leadership skills to empower youth to become community leaders.

“Our mission is our promise: Young people want to shape the world,” Jones said. “Camp Fire provides the opportunity to find their spark, lift their voice, and discover who they are. In Camp Fire, it begins now. Light the fire within.”

A typical camp day featured considerable hands-on opportunities to explore within weekly themes, such as “How Things Work.” The children took items apart, created projects, worked together and participated in science experiments. Each day included read aloud and independent reading time. A weekly field trip related to the theme.

“Reading was integral to introduce campers to new concepts and ideas,” Jones said. “It was also used within a ‘book club’ setting where Teens in Action visited and introduced campers to new styles and types of books as well as reading to them. There is also daily time set aside for children to explore the library area and find some quite time reading. We are fortunate to have a prominent, accessible library that is frequently replenished thanks to donations and volunteers.”

Several community leaders and experts also came to share firsthand information about topics ranging from public transit to agriculture. Being summer, plenty of time was allotted to being outside time and water play.

Camp Fire also sponsors after-school programs, summer day and overnight camps, an early education program, school readiness preparation, family and group camping weekends, outdoor education opportunities at the Texas Outdoor Education Center and team building for groups of all sizes. Camp Fire also hosts a specialty camp for children who have experienced the death of a loved one, El Tesoro de la Vida.

Each program has a slightly different process for enrolling children. Visit CampFireFW.org and determine which program and location is best for you and your family.

Training and educational opportunities are available for early education teachers and directors. Camp Fire is launching an Early Education Apprenticeship Program that will open enrollment in January. Financial support from the community is needed for events such as An Artists’ Christmas Art Auction & Gala, the Trail Run at El Tesoro, and the annual El Tesoro de la Vida dinner and fundraiser.

In Camp Fire, children and youth find a safe, fun and inclusive place – a place where they form lasting relationships, develop a sense of belonging and make positive contributions to the lives of their families and their community,” Jones said. “Camp Fire youth have life-enhancing experiences and develop assets essential to their futures. Camp Fire changes young lives for the better in our community. Inside and out.”

 Story by Art Garcia

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