Camp Fire Kids Take on the Humanities, Too

When Free Minds students studied Shakespeare in the fall, their children did the same. “The kids did an awesome job with Romeo and Juliet,” says teacher Anna-Marie Rider. “It’s so cool to see the younger kids understand and relate to the story. They’d say things like, ‘Romeo was silly to take that medicine. If only he had waited!'”

Rider works for Camp Fire USA, a nonprofit youth organization that provides programming for children whose parents are enrolled in Free Minds. Twice a week, while their parents are in class, about 10 children ranging in age from 4 to 12 meet with Rider in a classroom just down the hall.

A typical Camp Fire class includes dinner, homework time, group activities, and playtime. The children learn a variety of outdoor skills, from setting up a pole tent to conserving water. Sometimes they go on field trips to tour the UT campus or enjoy a night of bowling at the Texas Union.

The Camp Fire curriculum also incorporates elements from the Free Minds syllabus. In addition to reading Shakespeare, the children spent several evenings discussing evolution and creation while their parents were in class studying the Popol Vuh, the ancient Maya creation story.

“We talked about the best and worst things that have come out of evolution,” says Rider. “They were really interested in how modern technology has changed the way we live.” The children drew pictures of what they considered the best aspects of evolution (houses, butterflies, and cell phones, among others) and shared them with the Free Minds students and staff at the end-of-semester party in December.

The evening hours provide a unique opportunity to work with children who have already had a full day at school. “They’ve become a great team,” says Rider. “We reflect on what happened during the day, and we giggle about it. Other things are very serious, and we have empathy for each other. We’re like a family.”

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