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Day camp has youngsters learning while having fun

By Times Staff | Thursday, July 02, 2009 |

PHOTO PROVIDED BY CEDAR LAKE PARKS AND RECREATION DEPARTMENT Six-year-old Logan Torres is ready for anything as he arrives at the Cedar Lake Park and Recreation Department's day camp on Water Day, held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Thursday. Youngsters are invited to wear a bathing suit and water shoes and bring a towel for a day of wet activities weekly at the Park of the Red Cedars. NWI Photo Store

CEDAR LAKE | If you know how to pull it off, you can teach children while they have fun, and that's a talent Mary Joan Dickson has been blessed with all her life.

Cedar Lake's park superintendent has a knack for making every activity she plans plenty of fun, and children are drawn to her like a magnet. Yet, after they have eaten a meal they've cooked, watched a rocket they built blast off, hunted for bugs in the park or performed an original song on stage, they realize they've learned something new while having the time of their life.

This summer, Cedar Lake youngsters are enjoying a day camp that has a different theme every week through July, focusing on exploration.

Exploring The Past was the theme the first week, with Dinosaur Day, Pirate Day, Indian Day and a day full of games popular before the campers were born. "We are also able to start teaching a little archery this year," said Dickson, who devotes Tuesday mornings to that activity, weather permitting.

Dickson knows how to keep the kids coming back, so every week of camp also features Water Day - the most popular activity of all - from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday.

Last week featured Eco-Action Adventures, including a visit by the Lake County Solid Waste Management District's Enviromobile and a hike to Lemon Lake County Park. A Lego Building Contest honored Emily Allen with the Most Creative and Award of Excellence, while Hayley Tang received Most Realistic honors and Alex Horon and Eli Vukmirovich got the nod for Best Teamwork as well as Tallest Tower and Fastest Car, respectively.

Guest camper Christian Schabaker, 10, of Peotone, Ill. won the Cardboard Checkers Tournament, while campers made edible "dirt cups" filled with Oreo cookie crumbs, chocolate pudding and gummy worms, created bird feeders and planted a garden at Kiwanis Park. On an inclement weather day, they played board games and watched a movie indoors.

This week featured the popular Science Camp at the Monastery Clubhouse, 9800 W. 129th Ave., which returns from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 4 and 5 for ages 5 to 7 and Aug. 6 to 8 for ages 8 and older. Cost for supplies is $20 for the younger group and $30 for the older campers.

Next week's camp theme is Exploring our Borders and features Chinese, Canadian, Australian and Mexican days, said Dickson.

Preschoolers 4 and 5 have their own camp from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays at the Park of the Red Cedars, 7408 Constitution Ave., at a cost of $3 per session. "We read a story and then do crafts, an experiment and movement activities related to the day's story," said Dickson.

For more information about Cedar Lake day camp programs, call (219) 374-4444.

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