Orange picking in Carpinteria.
Courtesy Photo

It’s probably safe to say that, even in this day and age, blogging is not how most 10-year-olds spend their summer.

The children participating in the United Way’s Fun in the Sun summer enrichment program, however, just wrapped up a seven-week vacation that was anything but average. This is not to say that the kids were penned up in a computer lab.

Most of them spent a lot of time at the beach and playing ball. But some also participated in a program offering $500 scholarships to children completing 100 hours of “service learning.” Amberly Young, leader of a group of 13 girls and boys aged 10 to 13, chose to let her kids fulfill that requirement by putting a computer-age craze—blogging—to good academic use.

Kids Go Green with their reusable Trader Joe grocery bags.
Courtesy Photo

“My background is in journalism, so I wanted to teach what I know,” Young said, explaining the genesis of her idea. “They get to see themselves in print, have their family and friends comment on it, and develop their writing skills,” she said. “I think that being able to express themselves in writing is an important attribute for the kids.”

The blog provides an insiders’ view into the students’ world of field trips, learning, and, of course, fun. Through writing about their adventures, the kids were able to critically reflect on the field trips, which highlighted community involvement and green living. They went “places in the community that are free, fun, and interactive,” said Young. “I just think of what I would like to do if I were a kid.”

“The field trips were always fun,” agreed Marlene Bahena, 13, one of Young’s students. “We could never stop wondering what they would be.” Considering that they ranged from picking oranges in Carpinteria’s agricultural fields, to taking lessons at Santa Barbara Dance Arts, to making pizza at Domino’s, trying to guess what was next would surely be its own diversion.

Each day, the kids mentally and emotionally engaged, in their journals, with what they experienced, then collaborated to develop something for the blog. “We got to put it in our own way, and nobody told us what to do,” said Arlene Vargas, 13. They also did the blog’s photography. “I love our pictures,” said Antonio Castillo, 11. “I photographed things like orange-picking, and our trip to Los Baños swimming pool.” He added, “We get to remember our fun times, then our families send us comments and we get to write back.”

The project didn’t stop there: The campers made fliers to advertise their blog, calling businesses to ask permission to display them; and wrote thank-you notes to those who hosted them on field trips.

Overall, it was an unusual experience for the students, who got to have their summer fun while almost unwittingly learning at the same time. “I’m so proud of them!” Young said. “Their writing confidence skills have progressed. Now, they can all write a complete page in their daily journals. Before, their skills were just everywhere.”

“The blog was great, we took our time doing it and learned a lot,” Jessica Zavala, 10, said, summing up the mutual feeling among the group. “I got to do a lot of things I wouldn’t have done and enjoyed my new friends.”

To visit the kids’ blog, click here.


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