Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winter Camp at the FRC

This is the second year that my son, Theo and I have attended the BRRR Dead of Winter Camp at the Farm Research Cooperative, located in Bloomingdale, Michigan (northwest of Kalamazoo). The camp invites students in grades four through 6 for a weekend of academic sessions related to science and art.

The camp director’s name is Dr. LeRoy Ray. Dr. Ray was born in 1930 in Texas and has dedicated much of his life’s work to helping African American students graduate from college. He has been a university professor, farmer, cowboy, business owner and educator among many other things. At 80 years old, he has influenced thousands of young people to attend and complete college.

The Farm Research Cooperative, a non profit organization that he started, and this camp is one example of the work that he has sponsored, organized and help fund for nearly 40 years in Michigan. The schedule below reflects the rigors of the weekend and the urgency with which Dr. Ray operates. We end the weekend satisfied but exhausted. Here’s what our weekend looked like.

Friday, Feb. 4, 2011
5:30 p.m. Registration and Sign In.
6:00 p.m. Assign Sleeping Quarters
6:20 p.m. Introductions
7:00 p.m. Dinner- Spaghetti, Salad, Bread Sticks
8:00 p.m. Orientation, Code of Conduct and Expectations (Dr. Ray)
8:30 p.m. Team Building Exercise

In preparation for Saturday's campfire, we dug out the firewood and prepared the fire pit.

9:15 p.m Writing a Proposal/ Note Taking Skills (Ms. Simon)

I conducted a session on effective note taking skills. Each student receives a tool kit with notebook, pencils, highlighter, red pen and a dictionary.

10:15 p.m. Chemistry Experiment: Dehydrating Snow (Dr. Ray with help from all instructors)

The students collected three samples of snow, weighed each one using a double beam scale and put them in three locations, including a dehydrator. They recorded the time the experiment started. On Saturday morning, they checked their samples and discussed what happened to the snow and why.

11:30 p.m. Red Eye Research and Assignment
The students were expected to be able to recite the list of 17 expectations for the camp.

Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011
7:00 a.m Rise and Shine

8:00 a.m. Breakfast! Eggs, toast, bacon, cereal and juice
9:00 a.m. Clean Up
9:45 a.m. Group Assignments: The students were divided into two groups:
Group A: Demarion, Jayshon, Quiana, Dewan, Kwesi
Group B: Marcellus, Theo, Lila, Yyvennia, Brandon

10:00 a.m.

Group A: Science: Energy: Electricity and Conservation in the Carver Lab (as in George Washington Carver)

Instructors: Mr. Vincent with help from Mr. D and me presented a session on electricity. Students learned to convert watts to amps for incandescent bulbs and CFL's. They also learned ways to conserve energy and water at home.

Group B: Newsletter in the Red Barn (the newly constructed learning space that was opened in Summer, 2010)

Instructors: Mr. Palmore, Mr. McClendon

Students learned how to take photos, write stories, set up a newsletter in Microsoft Publisher.

12:00 p.m. Lunch: Grilled Cheese, Fruit, Cookies and Juice

1:00 p.m. Instuctors Meeting

We discuss the struggle that we see students having with taking notes. We determine that our schools and teachers rely heavily on worksheets and handouts so our students are not learning these skills at an early age. The instructors decide that one way to help students is to review notes after each session and help them edit/ fill in the information they missed.

1:00 Students Tour The Silo Museum

Instructor: Mr. McClendon took the students on a tour of the Silo Museum, which contains photos, artifacts and stories about Black Inventors. Dr. Ray is planning to renovate the Museum in the summer. Students shared ideas for updating the museum with the group.

2:00 p.m.

Group A: Newsletter
Group B: Science

3:30 p.m. Art

Instructor: Mr. Palmore, an accomplished fine artist from Kalamazoo, teaches students how to draw a face. They are then encourage to create an abstract piece of art with plaster compound and paint. Mama Leslie and I assist the students with supplies and watch as they create their art. Theo gives his finished piece to Mr. D, a volunteer from Saginaw who brought four students to camp, who he really connected with.

7:00 p.m. Outside Play

8:00 p.m. Dinner- We roasted hot dogs on the camp fire and then made smores!

9:00 p.m. Group Activity and Newsletter

During one of the breaks, Dr. Ray and I spend some time in his library. He has many, many books on lots of subjects. His collection of works from W.E.B. Dubois brings him special pride. He also has reel to reel tapes from his visits to the 107 Black colleges and universities located in the U.S. We discuss the need to preserve his collection and agree to talk further about how to accomplish this goal.

12:00 a.m. Red Eye Assignment

Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011

7:00 a.m. Rise and Shine
8:00 a.m. Breakfast
9:00 a.m. Clean up and Pack Belongings

9:30 a.m. Take a Stance

Dr. Ray spends time talking about the future of FRC, his vision and hope that this group and others will continue to work on behalf of African American youth. He helps the students (and adults) connect history with the present and future.

10:30 a.m. Plans are made to create way for students and instructors to keep in touch. I collect email addresses and agree to create a secure website for this purpose. We also discuss creating a presentation for the Family Farm Conference or other upcoming meeting to showcase the students work and encourage support for the FRC.

11:30 a.m. Depart for Home

We take a group photo outside before we all go our separate ways. I am grateful for a wonderful experience for Theo and myself.