Thinking creatively

At left, Ashley Kim and Hailey Del Vecchio try their hands at the keyboard. Photo courtesy Kelly Kuang

Build robots, create a board game, practice critical thinking and take musical training. Those are some of the activities enjoyed by Think Bridge campers at a Pacifica School District summer camp run by Pacifica School Volunteers for a month after school let out for the summer.

The camp offers a computer lab to build with Legos, musical performance, gaming and creative thinking. Think Bridge uses Vallemar School for a base every morning. Camp ends on Friday.

Founder Sydney Tyler-Parker remembered the first year, 12 years ago, when there were 20 campers. Last year, Think Bridge had 64 students. This year, the program was reduced because of COVID-19 to 44 students. There are 36 Pacifica School Volunteers who help with the Think Bridge camp.

Tyler-Parker trademarked the curriculum she developed — Just Think, Young Think, Think Quest and Stretch Think, to open young minds to creative thought in classrooms.

“It’s used all over the country,” she said. “The first place was Manhattan Beach.”

In a computer lab taught by David Bradley, several campers built dogs with Lego pieces, a process that took days. High school volunteers manned the tables to increase interaction with campers. The campers learn how to make Lego figures dance.

In musical performance, the students are taught the basics of playing music and dancing. Kelly Han, who trained at the Conservatory of Music in China, taught music in a happy class for 6- and 7-year-olds going into first grade. They were dancing and singing as she played songs on an electronic keyboard with small puppets in front of them serving as a pretend audience.

In the games class, chess, checkers and Uno were used to teach game strategy and sportsmanship. Beccy Howarth was teaching the class on creating games and playing games. The students built with K’nex construction toys to learn about construction. There was a big Jinga pile on the floor.

Nenke Levin taught campers about creative thinking and how to create solutions to imaginary problems, such as creating machines to do things. An example for a group of 8- and 9-year-olds was how to desalinate water. An older group was challenged with how to survive on an island when you are stranded. Posted on the wall is a camper creation helping ants do their work. Another prompt was to create a Rube Goldberg-type machine.

Pacifica School Volunteers provides all the volunteers for the camp, and there are many. Local Oceana and Terra Nova high school students volunteer along with St. Ignatius College Preparatory, Lowell and Mills high school students. The volunteers say it was a treat to be there. One Oceana High School student said she looked forward to it every year.

Patrick Sayres, the executive director of PSV, said what makes Think Bridge unique is a focus on the creative. He said some volunteers began as campers and then came back to volunteer.

“They work through a series of problems,” he said. “If they have problems to solve, it helps them build confidence.”

The class costs $800 for a four-week session. Scholarships are available.

“The kids have been terrific. Camp is going very smoothly,” Tyler-Parker said.

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