Camp XL's Kidpalooza celebrates a summer of fun, learning

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On Friday, Aug. 4, the staff and students of Camp XL hosted their annual Kidpalooza event. It is a culminating event celebrating the fun and the learning that has taken place at the camp all summer long. From bounce houses and dunk tanks to science experiment presentations and community garden tours, it is a day-long event.

This year, there were several guests from the local and state levels, including Joe Rotz, representing the Cranston Public Schools Central Administration, Senator Hanna Gallo, Mayor Allan Fung, School Committee members Dan Wall and Domenic Fusco, Aida Crosson representing Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s office, Kyle Weinreich representing Senator Reed’s Office, Nick Sedgley   representing Congressmen Langevin's Office, Annette Bourne of OneCranston and Paul Archetto from the Cranston City Council.

According to Director Ayana Crichton, the program was thankful for donations from businesses and organizations in the community, including The Andrea Restaurant in Misquamicut and Derek T. Nelson of Space Walk of Southeastern Massachusetts. The two businesses helped out by donating the bounce house, dunk tank, hot dogs, tents and tables. Their involvement doesn’t end with Kidpalooza however, helping out the program and its participants throughout the year as well.

“The Andrea also hosts our camp for a day during the summer, shutting down just for us and feeding us,” Crichton said. “And Derek Nelson is very community-oriented and also hires our youth, giving them employment opportunities.”  

All of the guests who visited Kidpalooza had the opportunity to visit the stations being held outside, as well as heading inside to see the students there who were showing off the things they had learned, from hydroponics, composting and solar energy to stop motion photography and film-making techniques using Legos. Camp XL, Bain and Gladstone’s Kidventure summer and school year programs all have a STEAM focus (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics, and computer science) and it definitely showed as the students showcased their learning.

Tours of the outdoor community garden were being given regularly, where guests could see the year-long focus in urban gardening in full effect. The garden’s recent updates are thanks to a grant from Whole Kids and the garden is maintained by the Bain students during the school year. In addition to seeing the vast selection of plantings on site, guests could also learn about the organic composting and rain barrel systems which have been another focus for the students as they have taken on the community garden project.

In Dr. Jesse Jordan’s room, Tina Huang who is heading to Park View in the fall, gave her presentation on organic pesticides and fertilizers. Jack Furtatdo spoke about the water cycle, while Corey Carpenter spoke about aphids and hydroponics. Jordan and his students also explained a little bit about their work using LED lighting and solar energy which will be used in conjunction with the school’s courtyard greenhouse, an on-going project that the Bain program takes care of during the school year as well.

“This is amazing,” said Wall. “They are having fun, and they are learning all of this at the same time.”

Crichton agreed, but joked that Wall shouldn’t let on to the students that learning was taking place while they were having so much fun.

“This is a good way to spend federal money. We are looking for more community involvement and for more local dollars now,” she said. “We also track the data on our students and the impact these programs have during the school year on things like academics, attendance, family engagement and connectivity, and the social-emotional environment. We are trying to create social cohesion between students on the eastern and western sides of the city. They’re all here, and they’re all working together and having fun together.”

Parents and kids alike, are grateful for the educational, fun environment at Camp XL each year, and come back long after they’ve outgrown the program both as volunteers and as employees and site coordinators.

“I don’t know where I’d be without it,” said Gia Giusti, mom of Lucas Falandys, who is heading into second grade in the fall. “He has been here since kindergarten and he just loves it, and I love it too.”

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