This summer, a few lucky Spartans received their acceptance letters to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. They visited Diagon Alley to collect their course materials and were sorted into Hogwarts houses, all without ever leaving Sparta. These 4th-6th grade students were actually enrolled in “Through the Eyes of Harry Potter”, a summer school course that is part of the Sparta Area School District’s Camp Sparta program.
Camp Sparta, though not actually Hogwarts, does provide magical experiences for Sparta’s incoming Pre-K through 8th graders. The summer school program differs from those of the past - instead of merely offering credit recovery, Camp Sparta seeks to pique curiosity and joyful learning in its students through a wide range of course offerings. This summer, the program included more than 65 unique classes like Nature Adventure Camp, Haunted Sparta, Kreative Kitchen, and Journey to Space and Back.
Class topics range from summer camp classics like sports, crafts, and nature activities to academic subjects like story writing, coding, and language learning, and even to social & emotional learning with classes teaching calming techniques, mindfulness, and yoga. Classes are designed to excite and engage learners with topics they may not get to explore during the school year, while incorporating key elements of school year curriculum like math, reading, writing, and science. Camp Sparta also includes extra small group support and credit recovery for students who need it, ensuring that all students are prepared for the upcoming school year.
Intriguing course offerings like Geocaching Adventures and Ocean Exploration have fostered student excitement and a high participation rate. About 1000 students have participated in some element of Camp Sparta this summer, a third of the Sparta Area School District’s total enrollment. In addition to providing a fun and engaging learning experience for students, district administrators have a focus on ensuring the program’s value to parents and families. Free summer meals including breakfast, lunch, and snack are provided to children and teens throughout the summer. New this year, the district partnered with Sparta Parks and Recreation to provide district-funded swimming lessons, and for the first time added summer WIN programming.
WIN, which stands for What I Need, is an after school program that typically runs during the school year, and has a mission of providing mind and body wellness, social and emotional learning, academic enrichment, and community connections. This year, WIN expanded to summer hours to address families’ need for a safe and structured place for youth to be in the afternoon hours after Camp Sparta programming ends for the day.
“Camp Sparta is an incredible asset to our students,” said Jess Weeden, parent of two boys who will be entering 4th and 5th grade respectively this fall. “My kids have really enjoyed having the ability to pick their classes and stay in touch with their friends this summer. They are not looking forward to it ending. Our minds were at ease knowing they were excited about their classes and time spent at school, and extending the WIN program only continued their fun”.