This summer at Harker featured some exciting first-time offerings for students, both local and from around the globe.
At the youngest level, history was made with the addition of a new preschool summer program. Meanwhile, the popular English Language Institute (ELI) launched an optional summer VIP tour, which was a huge hit with international students at both the lower and upper schools.
Each summer Harker opens its doors to the public, extending its offerings to local students. Noteworthy this year was skyrocketing attendance for all of Harker’s summer programs, particularly at the lower school’s Camp+ and upper school’s Summer Institute (SI).
In addition to the new preschool, ELI, Camp+ and SI, Harker also offered a large and varied summer sports camp, as well as a swim school.
“Once again, we enjoyed a successful summer … and were thrilled to be able to offer exciting new programming!” enthused Kelly Espinosa, longtime director of Harker’s summer programs.
Below is a look back at Harker Summer 2014:
Harker Preschool Launches New Summer Program
This year marked the first time Harker Preschool, which opened last fall, has operated a summer camp at its Union Avenue campus. The preschool now joins the larger Harker community’s long-running tradition of offering programs after the regular school year ends.
The preschool’s successful inaugural summer camp featured two sessions, which began with a fun beach theme and ended with an action-packed wilderness motif. Session one, called “Down by the Shore,” ran from June 23-July 18 with 55 enthusiastic “beachgoers” filling the preschool’s sunny cottages, play yards and specialty classrooms (STEM, music and movement, and art.) Session two ran from July 21-Aug. 8 with the theme “Little Cabin in the Woods.” For the second session, children happily grabbed their backpacks and headed off to the (imaginary) forest.
Highlights of the first session included water play on “Splash Days,” as well as explorations of both sand and water. Four-year-old camper Luca Chan especially enjoyed the many ocean-themed books introduced and discussed during group times.
Classmate Miley Liu, also 4, said she liked “making a beach in a box,” an activity in which students filled plastic containers with sand, shells and other items you would see at a beach.
Meanwhile, in music and movement class, students made drums that sounded like the ocean, explained teacher Mara Beckerman. Then, in her aftercare class, they explored surfing to the upbeat music of “Wipe Out.”
In art class the children enjoyed sea foam watercolor painting, sand sculpture, sea life printmaking, lobster claw still life and shell weaving, among other activities. “We also discussed where pearls come from and what they look like at a bead-making table,” recalled art instructor Alexandria Kerekez.
The first summer session was filled with surf, sand and sun as the children “soaked in” all there was to see and do around this well-loved theme, noted Andrea Hart, director of Harker Preschool. “Together we explored sea life and play through sand and water, singing silly songs and reading stories about friends who live and play on the salty shore. All were inspired by our new pet hermit crab. There were also some excellent sandcastles that the children made themselves by manually grinding rocks into sand!” she enthused.
During the second session Hart recalled that the children had a great time meeting new forest animal friends, building with logs, digging in the dirt, pitching tents, creating with found objects, exploring common outdoorsy tools, and enjoying everything nature had to offer. “It was all the fun of a camping adventure without the worries of bears or mosquito bites!” she said.
Summer Camp+ Enjoyed Record-Breaking Attendance
Harker’s Summer Camp+ filled up at record speed, attracting some 774 (K-6) campers to the lower school campus. This year’s program had a fun-filled afternoon circus theme, called “Under the Big Top.”
Once again, Camp+ provided morning learning experiences followed by age-appropriate afternoon electives. Grade 5 Harker student and Camp+ enthusiast Jack Hayashi said his favorite thing about the program was playing ball hockey and going to the archery range. He also liked that there was plenty of time for simply “clowning around.”
Meanwhile, first-time Camp+ participant Rhiannon Sikand, a grade 3 Harker student, said she enjoyed the camp’s climbing wall and had a lot of fun going on a field trip to the Oakland Zoo. “I liked seeing all the animals … especially the turtles,” she said.
Camp+ students in grades 1-6 had the option of enrolling in one of two academic morning programs: Core Focus or Learning Opportunities in Literature (LOL). Core Focus was a more traditional learning environment with language arts, math and academic electives for each grade level. LOL featured academic courses designed around literary subject matter; this year, LOL focused on the work of beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss.
Both Core Focus and LOL shared the same afternoon options, including arts and crafts, dance, water play, wall climbing, archery and array of other field sports – and of course, plenty of circus arts!
The Summer Camp+ program kicked off and ended with Color Clash, a fun event held in the lower school’s gymnasium. Groups of campers on yellow, red, green and blue teams participated in an array of silly games cheered on by captains (aka camp counselors) wearing color-coordinated outfits that ran the gamut from superhero costumes to hula skirts and fun hats. This year’s Color Clash finals showcased a video highlighting happenings from previous events.
Other on-site happenings included a water carnival, sleepover for older campers, presentation for parents and a birthday celebration for the camp mascot, “Ray,” according to Joe Chung, program director of Summer Camp+ and Harker’s elementary computer science teacher. Campers also enjoyed numerous field trips.
“I would recommend Camp+ to anyone!” said Hayashi.
The Harker School has offered extensive summer programs for more than 50 years. The Summer Camp+ program is accredited nationally by the American Camping Association.
Summer Institute Offers Variety of Programs for Middle and Upper School Students
Harker’s Summer Institute (SI) was a tremendous success, attracting a total of 1,088 middle and upper school students, an increase of 242 over last summer.
The program, which began in mid-June and ran until mid-August, gave students in grades 6-12 the chance to earn credits, learn new skills and pursue individual interests.
The program was available to both Harker students and others, and offered two tracks – one for middle schoolers and another for high schoolers, explained SI middle school director Keith Hirota and SI principal for the upper school students Evan Barth.
The academic portion of the day consisted of rigorous for-credit courses including algebra, economics and programming, as well as non-credit opportunities for enrichment and growth including creative writing, Web design, debate and robotics. A driver’s education course was available for students ages 15 and up.
For middle schoolers (grades 6-8), SI’s afternoon activity program included many specialty classes and recreational activities; students in grade 9 were also invited to sign up for the afternoon activities. Specialty classes included backyard games, volleyball boot camp and cooking. Other classes include art, jewelry-making, magic, improv, dance, tech, junior lifeguard, chess and circus arts. There were also off-campus field trips every couple of weeks to places such as Shoreline Aquatics Center and Capitola.
This summer, a group of business-savvy students attending an SI finance class organized and ran a lemonade stand on the upper school campus. The students raised $228, which was divided among three local organizations (Abode Services, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation and the Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Foundation) as part of a lesson on charitable giving. The stand was one of two culminating projects for a course called “Finance & Investing for Teens” (F.I.T., for short). For the other culminating project, students successfully designed their own mutual fund.
To run the lemonade stand, students were tasked to come up with a custom flavor, build a business plan, design a marketing strategy and staff the business with start-up money fronted by their instructor.
F.I.T. participant and stand worker Emily Zhou, a grade 7 student at the Challenger School, said that this was her first time attending SI. Previously, she had attended Harker’s Camp+ program, held at the lower school.
Zhou explained that to offset costs, such as cups and ingredients, drinks were sold for $1 for regular flavor and $1.50 for specialty flavors like mango or strawberry. “But we passed out coupons for 25 cents off to attract customers,” she said, noting that refills also went for 25 cents off.
Zhou’s F.I.T. classmate, grade 9 Harker student Eric Tran, said he was surprised at how much money the lemonade stand netted, noting that, “We made $85 in just the first half hour of its opening.” In addition to passing out coupons to help attract customers, Tran said that a lot of marketing was done “word of mouth” and by “putting up signs around campus.”
However, customer Grace Cao, a grade 11 Harker student, said that she simply happened upon the stand on her way to an SI class. Of the lemonade she ordered, she said, “It tasted great!”
New VIP Tour Took Learning on the Road for ELI Participants
This summer 57 upper school students and 42 lower school children came to Harker from countries around the globe to attend the increasingly popular English Language Institute (ELI).
Adding an international flair to summer at Harker, ELI provides overseas students with an opportunity to learn and practice their English skills. Many participants go on to attend top American and international schools.
First-time ELI student Hui-Hsuan (Maggie) Cheng, a grade 6 student from Taiwan, fondly recalled going on an outing to visit the tide pools. Cheng said that in a lesson prior to the field trip, her teacher had explained the importance of gently handling the tide pool animals.
New to ELI this summer was an optional “Very Interesting Places” (VIP) tour. Available to all ELI students (ages 6-16), the six-day VIP tour took place at the conclusion of the program’s regular five-week academic session. The trip, held in mid-August with 21 participants, took the students to local theme parks, museums, various school campuses and tourist attractions, culminating with an overnight stay in Yosemite National Park.
Destinations were carefully chosen to elevate historical and cultural awareness; allow students to create closer relationships with their peers and teachers; and provide enormous opportunity for continued English language development, according to ELI director Anthony Wood. Additionally, older students interested in attending American boarding schools or universities had the opportunity to visit and meet with staff at some of the area’s best schools.
Highlights of the VIP trip included whale watching in Monterey, a Jelly Belly factory tour, educational visits to UC Berkeley and Stanford University, a Giants (versus Chicago White Sox) game, a scavenger hunt at Huddart Park and a day of fun at Great America theme park.
In Yosemite National Park, ELI students viewed the majestic Yosemite Falls and visited the area’s museum and cultural center, with educational activities led by a park ranger. A short hike to the lower falls provided inspiration for a writing assignment and picture journal.
“A specially designed instructional component made each day’s adventure a learning experience catered to individual proficiency levels. Students wrote, spoke and read about their destinations, learned new vocabulary related to each new site, and had daily challenges involving English interaction in real-life situations. A travel journal was kept to document their learning … and of course all the fun!” recalled Wood.
Sports Camps and Swim School Keep Students Fit and Focused
Harker’s variety of summer sports offerings afforded students the chance to learn a new activity, improve as athletes or simply work on their overall fitness. Led by experienced and caring coaches, students gained new skills in a fun and nurturing environment.
Sport choices this summer included: wrestling, water polo, basketball, soccer, volleyball, football and a TRX (suspension) training program that was introduced last summer. In addition to the sports camps, Harker’s summer swim school offered individual instruction to swimmers of all ages looking to improve on their aquatic abilities.
Highlights of this year’s sports camps included a special guest visit to the wrestling camp by Anthony Robles, who won the 2010-11 NCAA championship in the 125-pound weight class despite being born with just one leg.
Directing this year’s basketball camp was Harker varsity basketball coach Mark Collins, who spent 10 years in Denmark as a professional player, being named an All-Star player five times. He also directed the Golden State Warriors training camp for six years.
The football camp was again led by Harker head football coach Ron Forbes, a 15-year collegiate Division 1 veteran. His career includes successful stints at the University of Florida and Stanford University, coaching more than 60 future NFL draftees.
Meanwhile, Harker’s water polo camp enjoyed two sessions this summer, due to its popularity in the past. “Last year a lot of the parents asked us to do two sessions, so this year we answered,” said water polo coach and camp co-director Allie Lamb, a 15-year veteran of the sport, who ran the camp with coach Ted Ujifusa, head coach of the Harker boys’ water polo team.