Summer camps with a unique historical focus are making their debut this August at Singing Creek Educational Center (SCEC).
The local nonprofit has recently received $7,745 from the Oregon Community Foundation’s Summer Learning Grant. The grant is geared toward underprivileged children in the Cottage Grove area, enabling them to attend free summer camps this year.
“It was specifically in response to COVID,” said Singing Creek Executive Director Karen Rainsong. “They recognized the need for some extra educational opportunities for kids this summer.”
Singing Creek Educational Center develops historically-inspired educational programs. Its interactive history programs (which include dressing in period costumes), field trips and crafts classes are designed to connect kids to history and nature in meaningful ways.
This summer’s camps are featuring some new elements and will include Oregon-centered activities and crafts as well as lessons derived from South American countries like Mexico and Guatemala.
Grant funding is allowing the lessons to be taught in both English and Spanish with the hiring of multi-lingual instructors. A Mam language interpreter will also be on staff to help children from Guatemala.
Mam is a Mayan language spoken in the western highlands of Guatemala and southwestern Mexico and Cottage Grove is known to have a sizeable population of Mam speakers. As the language is quite distinct from Spanish, Mam speakers can face some barriers even when services in Spanish are offered.
“There are a lot of Guatemalan families locally and we’ve been wanting to reach out to that community since we got here a couple of years ago,” said Rainsong. “So this seemed like a perfect way to reach out to that community and offer a fantastic summer experience for these kids.”
To launch the camps, SCEC has been working closely with the Family Resource Center in Cottage Grove, said Rainsong.
The center is helping locate and register children ages six to 10 from low-income families who could most benefit from the educational experience.
The summer camps will be during August only and run Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Three weeks will be dedicated to the Spanish language camps with classes of 10 different children served each week.
Singing Creek uses the historic Dr. Snapp House on River Road for classes. Typically, summer camps are held every other week, but grant funding has allowed for weekly use during August.
“And with this grant, we were able to pay rent for the first time to the Prospectors and Gold Diggers Club,” said Rainsong excitedly.
The iconic Queen Ann Victorian Dr. Snapp house is also a museum maintained by the Prospectors and Gold Diggers Club meant to showcase early medical practices.
The regular summer camps at SCEC, with themes such as “Opal Whiteley Nature,” “Lewis and Clark Explorers” and “Pioneer Homesteaders” are already full and waiting lists are in effect.
The Spanish-oriented summer camps will be similar to the Pioneer Homesteading curriculum, said Rainsong, and will include geographical awareness lessons and Guatemalan textiles to learn about weaving and cloth-making.
Activities will also involve a range of skills and lessons such as cooking, gardening, sewing, puppet making and nature exploration, all with a focus on sustainable living.
Rainsong said she is excited to extend these opportunities to children who have language and economic barriers in order that they connect more fully with the community.
Aside from these summer camps, Singing Creek Educational Center features year-round programs and events for children and families which bring the history of Oregon to life in unique ways, aiming to inspire children and families toward an appreciation of local history through hands-on learning.
During (and due to) the COVID-19 pandemic, the center began exploring new avenues of education which could stick to the center’s central themes yet maintain social distancing requirements.
Rainsong came up with a small video series which she described as a kind of “kids’ history TV channel.”
The online videos feature locals and their specialties such as in a trip to an alpaca farm or storytelling about Opal Whiteley.
In addition to such developments, Rainsong sees more upcoming opportunities for Singing Creek to grow and continue nurturing roots in the community.
For one, the center will host a booth at this weekend’s Bohemia Mining Days festival, which Rainsong encouraged the community to visit.
Then on Oct. 2, the center will participate in the Green Living Fair, a free community gathering which will include workshops centered sustainable living. The event will be held in the Cottage Grove Armory.
The educational center has also recently become the fiscal sponsor for new project, the South Valley Farm and Food Network, which will help connect local farmers and shoppers to help build food resiliency in the area.
Within the center’s own organizational structure, Rainsong said she was interested in achieving more racial and ethnic diversity on the board of directors in order to better inform historical educational opportunities in the curricula.
Rainsong also had effusive praise for the support the center has received.
“We’re very indebted to Oregon Community Foundation that we’re very thankful to them for the grant,” she said, adding gratitude for Woodard Family Foundation and Banner Bank contributions as well.
For more information about Singing Creek Educational Center, visit online at www.singingcreekcenter.org.
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