Local youngsters visit campus for literary scavenger hunt

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The College of Education hosted Camp Explore 2.0 and brought campers to campus in July for a reading enrichment field trip

Click here to see a photo scrapbook of Camp Explore.

Students running around campus in a scavenger hunt are not an all-too unfamiliar site on a college campus, but 6- through 8-year-olds sneaking around Beaman Library to solve clues and find books to read is a little more rare.

Camp Explore 2.0, a summer literacy camp hosted by Lipscomb University for elementary school students at Nashville’s J.E. Moss Elementary School, let loose 70 children on campus this month on a literary scavenger hunt, designed to teach students critical thinking skills and encourage them to read and envision themselves going to college someday.

The literacy field trip was the finale event for Camp Explore, a summer camp strategically designed to support and teach young English Language Learners, rising first- through third-graders in English dominant classrooms, and their families.

Camp Explore is one of 350 summer literacy camps funded by a $30 million grant from the State Department of Human Services. The grant is part of the state’s Read to be Ready campaign, launched in 2016 by Gov. Bill Haslam to boost the lagging literacy rates by improving third-grade reading proficiency to 75 percent by 2025.

J.E. Moss Elementary School is an urban Title 1 school and one of the larger elementary schools in the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools district. Almost all of the student body are economically disadvantaged and more than half are English Language Learners. 

During their day on campus, campers met Jessica Young, a real-life author who taught them about alliteration and similes; in the scavenger hunt they search for a book about soccer player Pelé in the Parnassus Books bookmobile; and they played interactive games to learn about the sun and the water cycle in a science session.

“What does Texas start with?” Jacee Preston, a Lipscomb graduate student earning her ELL endorsement, asked one little girl in her group of rising first-graders as they pored over their scavenger hunt clue as a group. “T,” they reply enthusiastically. The youngsters had to find a map with Texas on it to receive their next clue.

After moving upstairs and receiving their clue beside an atlas showing Texas, they went back downstairs and met Lipscomb librarian Elizabeth Heffington, who lent them several of the books the campers have read throughout this summer for a quick review.

Constino Morena, 6, chose a book by Mo Willems featuring Elephant and Piggy to discuss with Preston. “What is it that you like about that book?” Preston asks Moreno. “It is funny and the animals are very nice,” he replies.

Lipscomb’s Beaman Library has a large collection of children’s books, and the library has provided books from its collection for both Camp Explore and the 2.0 version in 2017, said Jeanne Fain, lead faculty for Lipscomb’s English Language Learner program, who wrote the grant for Camp Explore and coordinates the camp activities.

The grant funding allowed campers to keep several books during the summer, including “Pelé, King of Soccer,” by Monica Brown, and “Tomás and the Library Lady” by Raúl Colón, both books that depict young Hispanic children achieving great things.

“I love that they are walking all over campus (in the scavenger hunt),” said Fain, “because I was them to believe that they could be here.”

Lipscomb’s Camp Explore grew from 40 to 70 students this year, and about half the students are young English language learners. The camp’s co-coordinator is Sarah Duncan, assistant professor in the College of Education, and various ELL graduate students at Lipscomb served as guides for the youngsters around campus.

During the camp, students are taught to read strategically and write and respond to narrative, global and informational texts through interactive read-alouds, guided reading, mini-writing workshops, music, art, dramatic arts, interactive games and literacy integrated into science and technology.

The camp was visited last year by Gov. Bill and Crissy Haslam as well as other educational leaders. This year it was visited by officials from SCORE, First Lady Haslam’s office and the Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen.

“Literacy is such an important skill that can open doors for students. When children increase reading and comprehension skills, each academic area is positively affected,” said Fain. “Being able to encourage literacy in young people and their families and to equip teachers with the tools and strategies needed to be successful in the classroom is one way the resources and expertise in Lipscomb’s College of Education can serve the community.”

The state’s Read to be Ready Summer Grants fund instructional programs that provide rich, authentic literacy opportunities to students entering first, second and/or third grade who are not yet proficient in reading and writing skills and who live in low-income areas, including those in rural Tennessee. The goal is to develop students’ love for reading and writing over the summer months by providing them with access to a multitude of high-quality, high-interest texts and literacy experiences.