Students with special needs benefit from “Camp Wonder”
Lauren (left) and Diana (right)
Despite being twins, Lauren and Diana couldn’t have more polarizing interests.
Lauren rocks skateboard shirts and has a tech deck — otherwise known as a mini skateboard — between her fingers most of the time. She likes to take turns on her desk between learning activities.
“I make music,” Lauren says. “I have a harmonica at home. A trumpet. A piano.” Her sister, Diana, is more concerned with the latest fashion and social media hype. She works at Kroger and enjoys making shirts for famous YouTubers. At some point during a break, she pulls out her phone and launches YouTube. “Keeping Up With The Kardashians. I didn’t miss any episodes,” Diana says.
Lauren and Diana are attending Camp Wonder this year, a summer camp held at LaVergne High School. The camp is open to all special education students in Rutherford County.
The camp is a partnership between Rutherford County Schools and the Discovery Center, a children’s museum, nature center and wetland walk near downtown Murfreesboro. It offers various activities for children and their parents, and teaching at Camp Wonder is just one avenue in which the Discovery Center shows its compassion for the local community.
As part of the camp, Discovery Center leaders help guide students through multiple activities. For one activity, for example, campers create a picture frame by first painting a rock, stringing colorful beads onto copper wire, and finally having their picture taken. Later, the yarn will be wrapped around the rock and students will take home the craft project as a keepsake. What is “wonderful” at Camp Wonder is all the students learn.
Activities this year included making ice cream, learning about pH levels in water, arts, crafts, digging up dinosaur bones, and more. Students can also meet first responders, police and paramedics.
RCS School Board member Claire Maxwell is at the heart of Camp Wonder “I was EA at Riverdale High School,” says Maxwell. “I realized that for some of our kids, their parents didn’t know what was going on and a lot of students didn’t go to camp.”
After meeting Tara MacDougall, President and CEO of the Discovery Center, Maxwell and MacDougall chatted for a few months and came up with a plan for the first-ever Camp Wonder, starting with the students of Riverdale four years ago.
When Maxwell became a school board member and quit her job at Riverdale, she pledged to keep the camp going. She put him up in Riverdale last summer, then planned to move him to other schools in the county.
In addition to camp at LaVergne High this week, she has another week planned at Oakland High in July. The cost for families is only $25. “I print about 5-10 applications each year and physically visit all the schools,” Maxwell says. “I would like to grow it. I would like to have more than two (sessions).
Lauren, Diana and the 10 other students at the LaVergne High session are all gaining something that has been hard to come by in recent years – socialization and fun. Camp Wonder is as much about learning and gaining new academic skills as it is about having a good time and meeting new friends from across the school system – people they might not see in a school year. normal.
During the interview for this story, Maxwell helps Lauren and Diana make kazoos out of two Popsicle sticks, straws, and rubber bands. Lauren finishes hers first and presses it against her lips to try it out. “What do you love most about coming to camp?” Maxwell asks. “Fun. It’s fun,” Lauren says. She blows her kazoo.
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