“Camp Discover” Connects Families, Children and Community in Grundy

Families, children, teachers, community leaders and partners gathered at Grundy Lakes on Oct. 4 for a family reunion of “Camp Discover: Me, My Community, My World.” The event included hayrides, canoe rides, educational hikes, apple tastings, read-alouds, singing, a family-style dinner and many lasting memories from this summer’s Camp Discover. To extend the learning at home, families and children were given a Camp Discover backpack, books and a family activity guide. 

“Camp Discover: Me, My Community, My World” was a new two-week summer program for 24 Tracy City Elementary School students in grades K–2 designed to foster resilience by helping children and families feel connected to each other, their community and the world. Emphasis was placed on exploring, sharing and celebrating the community’s stories and heritage. Students enjoyed educational trips to nature sites and landmarks, including South Cumberland State Park, Dutch Maid Bakery, Grundy County Historical Society, May Justus Memorial Library and the University of the South. 

A key part of each trip was introducing the children to community members who shared their unique stories. To help reinforce the camp themes and visits, children also enjoyed literacy-based activities such as read-alouds, original songs and journaling. 

“For many of the children and families, it was the first time they visited these places,” said Sherry Guyear, a camp leader and teacher at Tracy City Elementary School. “They were learning alongside of each other. These experiences will long be remembered.” 

The program is part of an ongoing community project involving Scholastic, Yale Child Study Center, the University of the South, Tracy City Elementary School and other local organizations. In addition to Camp Discover, a family cooperative program will begin early next year to help build supportive connections within the community. 

Representatives from both Yale Child Study Center and Scholastic were at the reunion. Dr. Linda Mayes of Yale Child Study Center and a native of the area noted, “We’re delighted to be working alongside such dedicated and talented community leaders and families.” Windy Lopez, director of community affairs at Scholastic, added, “Seeing the proud and confident smiles on the faces of the children and families is what this is ultimately about.”

Of the parents and adult family members who completed surveys this summer, 75 percent said they noticed changes in their child after participating in the camp, including personal and social growth such as increased confidence and being interested in family history, as well as an increased knowledge and interest in the community and in nature. 100 percent of families reported that their child made new friends at camp and that they would like their child to attend a program like this again in the future. 
As one parent shared during the reunion, “My child was excited to be able to hold and learn about animals such as the “corn snake.” He loved everything about the camp and couldn’t wait to go each day.” 

Emily Partin, director of Grundy County Schools Family Resource Center and a lead camp coordinator, said that children were so excited after the reunion, “Some even came to school with their event name tags and Camp Discover book bags … we can see how the program is making a positive impact!”
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