By Jacob Sturm
Even over the summer, Mustang Public Schools is offering services with the goal of maintaining STEM lessons through fun activities during the summer.
That goal is executed through Bronco summer camps, led by Julie Chastain, District Coordinator of Bronco Club, and Kris Green, the Director of the Community Education Program for Mustang Public Schools.
Bronco Club summer camps, which originally started in 2016 in the Elementary Sites, is for students going into Kindergarten through those entering the sixth grade.
“We have a different theme every week,” Chastain said. “So, we pick a theme and we have curriculum that goes with it. They don’t feel like they’re in school. It’s fun, it’s educational and they’re doing STEM activities with it… Along with that, we give them a lot of opportunity just to build their social skills.”
Chastain said kids at the camps have computer time, gym time, recess and other fun activities along with the lesson that is planned with the purchased curriculum.
The kids are also taken on field trips and other fun activities during the week of the camp. That includes swimming every week, along with unique fun activities either brought to the camp or vice versa.
Bronco Club capped the numbers of students at 200 for the 2023 summer camps due to staffing. Green said the normal average the past three years has been around 230 kids, but the lower number for 2023 was so the program didn’t lose any quality.
When the summer camps started, the average was around 60 kids per week. Chastain also indicated that 80 employees work the camps, while Green said the teachers working the camps are paid for their work.
“Every week but one has filled up, and we’ve had a waiting list,” Chastain said. “…It takes quite a large staff, and we’re very fortunate and feel like our parents appreciate this. The majority of our staff are teachers and paras, so they are already used to working with kids. And we’re excited this year because we brought some in from the High School who were interested, and they have loved working with them.”
The camps also offer the opportunity for students entering the eighth grade or the ninth grade to work as Counselors in Training (CITs) who help in the camp.
CIT’s must fill out an application and get references from their teachers in order to be eligible for the job. CIT’s will work four or five weeks of the camps, and will come in early and stay all day to help the staff.
“It’s really great for them to build their leadership skills,” Chastain said. “They’re learning to step out of their comfort zone a little bit, and it’s exciting for us to see (those returning to the program for their second or third year)… and they have just stepped up in the things they can do with the kids. To see them almost taking over little parts in teaching little lessons or reading books to the kids. It’s really been good for them, too. And I think that’s a great part of our program.”
Camps start at 7 a.m. and go until 6 p.m. Attendees are fed breakfast and lunch at the camp, too.
Five-day weeks for camp cost $180, while four-day weeks cost $150. There is a sibling discount with $20 off for each child enrolled after the first one.
“I just can’t say how lucky we are that our staff loves kids and that’s their passion already,” Chastain said. “And so, we’re very fortunate to have a summer camp staffed with people like that.”
“We want the community to benefit from this, our parents to benefit from this, the kids and our staff,” Green said. “That’s the main focus. We want them to benefit and get all of the positives. Everyone involved, we want them to have all of the positives out of it.”