Camps & Schools 2023

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7-9 KIDS SUMMER camp JUNE 20TH - AUGUST 11TH Preschool and K-8 Grade options Our Camp provides a wonderful opportunity for children to learn in a playful, relaxed environment. Indoor and outdoor activities - weekly themesweekly specialist camps for older age groups. FOR MORE INFORMATION: SCAN THE QR CODE OR VISIT : WWW.SAINTANTHONYSCHOOLVA.ORG/SUMMER-CAMP SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA SCHOOL 3301 Glen Carlyn Road, Falls Church VA 22041 S T ANTHON Y OF PADU A KIDSSUM M ER CAMP 2023
CAMPS FALLS CHURCH NEWS-PRESS | FCNP.COM PAGE 8 | MARCH 9 - 15, 2023 For more information and to register: Summer At Bishop O'Connell High School Camps Game Development • Sports Management Creative Writing • Field Hockey • Entrepreneurs Basketball • Young Debaters • Baseball Cybersecurity • Band • Volleyball Web Development • Video Production • Lacrosse Theatre • Junior Veterinary

Explore the Outdoors with Troop 1996

Learn what scouting is all about on Monday, March 13th, 2023 at 7:30pm! We welcome all young men who are currently fifth graders and will be in the sixth grade in the fall of 2023 as well as older young men seeking a scouting experience. We are an active local troop, with monthly outings, campouts, hikes, Eagle projects, and summer camp and High Adventure crews – come find out more!

Troop 1996 meets weekly at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle school on Monday nights at 7:30pm except when FCCPS schools are closed.

Falls Church | Troop1996 Summer camp 2022 at Camp Henson on the Nanticoke River.
19-23 Rising 1st-6th Grade June 20 - August 18, 2023 Falls Church, VA 8:30 am to 4:30 pm $340/week

Summer Smarts: How Camps Influence Fun and the Future

When a parent sends their child to a summer camp, they may think it’s a way for the child to enjoy a week or two of sun, fun and friends. However, these camps can also benefit their pupils in an academic and professional way.

In recent years, summer camps have grown from woods-centered, bonfiresinging sleepaway vacations to focusing more on specific interests; some that may lead into a young adult’s future career or academic goals. These camps can be centered on cooking, STEM, theater/dance, sports and much more.

Although a child may be initially hesitant about taking part in a summer camp, what they and their guardians might not know is that these camps can foster growth. These summer camps can take a child out of their comfort zone and blossom an interest they might have not had before.

Tom Rosenberg is the president and CEO of the American Camp Association, a national nonprofit organization that accredits all organized camps across the United States. Rosenberg stated the Covid-19 pandemic has “really highlighted and underscored” why summer camp/programs are important for the enrichment of children.

Learning at a summer camp or program is different from year-long learning at a school, according to Rosenburg, due to its “kinetic” and “experiential” hands-on learning. These camps can influence a child to take “positive risks,” such as joining a camp/program that introduces them to a possible new interest.

“There’s all kinds of things that you do at camp that are new, different and hard,” Rosenberg said. “At camp, you learn to try hard things and not worry about making mistakes because it’s a place that’s set up to be emotionally and physically safe.”

If a child does have an interest in science, the arts or athletics, camps can allow them to explore further what they can do with their interests in the future. These camps can also help a young one to acquire lifelong skills, such as communicating with others and developing independence.

In the City of Falls Church, camps are offered for both residents and nonresidents. According to the city’s website, the Falls Church Recreation and Parks Department is “committed to offering safe, high-quality and enjoyable in-person camp programming.”

In past years, the city has provided summer camps focusing on cooking, dance and gymnastics, art, music and theater, media, STEM and more.

SUMMER CAMPS can allow a child/young adult to explore interests they may or may not have that can affect future career goals. (P����:

These camps allow a child to enjoy a camp experience based on their specific interests or explore something that can become a future school or career appeal.

Kristofer Titus is the association director of school age child care and camp at the YMCA Alexandria. He said it’s important for children of all ages to “explore, learn and grow in their confidence and skills.”

The summer programs offered at the YMCA Alexandria include health/ nutrition camps and sports/ wellness camps. Speciality programs are also offered throughout the summer, including a crime investigation and an engineering camp. Titus said the YMCA sees about 1,000 children take part in these programs each year, with many former participants coming back when they get older to help out as staff through the company’s leadership program.

Titus further stated that if children aren’t given the opportunity to experience summer camps or programs, they are “less likely” to explore the different interests offered when entering middle school or high school.

“We want to give [children] an allaround experience so that they have the opportunity to see what they like and then dig deeper into that,” Titus said.

Rosenberg went on to state that summer camps/programs are often the first place a child does something all by themselves, such as cooking, painting/ drawing or playing a certain sport.

Describing it as a “huge, project-based learning community,” Rosenberg said camp allows a child to work with their peers and create/succeed at something together, a skill “relevant” from a workforce development perspective today.

“This is a generation of kids who are going to grow up and be inventors, design thinkers and learn how to engineer technology,” Rosenberg said, “so that it can create better things for society and the greater community.”

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FCCPS Students GIVE Back on Upcoming Annual Day of Service

Seven years ago, a group of fifth grade students and their families created a community service project that people of all ages can participate in.

GIVE Day — “Get Involved, Value Everyone” — has since evolved into a “significant” community service project for all Falls Church City Public Schools. The event allows students in preschool through twelfth grade to “take action” by hosting various community projects throughout the school year, culminating on a Day of Service on Monday, January 16th.

During the 2022-23 school year, the GIVE day ambassadors supported five different areas: food insecurity, animal welfare, refugee assistance, sports gear to Africa and sustainable art. Various events from December through January have helped support these areas, including a bake sale, pet food drive and dine-out fundraiser.

The very first GIVE Day took place in 2016, with 12 fifth-grade ambassadors leading a group of 300 volunteers. Christine Lee Buchholz, the co-founder of GIVE Day said the idea to have the event was inspired

by the International Baccalaureate learner profile trait of “caring” and Harvard’s Making Caring Common project. The Falls Church PTA wanted to “provide a tangible way for children of all ages to participate in community service.

“Every year the students adapt GIVE Day with their creativity, passions and interests,” Buchholz said.

Suzanne Hladky and her three children have been involved with GIVE Day since its start seven years ago, with her oldest son Henry being one of the 12 kids that were the first ambassadors. Hladcky has been one of the parent coordinators for GIVE Day throughout her children’s elementary, middle and high school years.

“It’s really blossomed,” Hladky said when talking about GIVE Day. “We’ve looked at local and international charities, and are doing our best to support what the kids want to support.”

To be an ambassador, Hladky said the process varies between grades. For fifth grade students in elementary school, they must fill out an application that explains why they want to be an ambassador and what matters to them when it comes to service.

For middle schoolers, there is a GIVE Day club students can sign up for and fill out a form as to why they want to be a part of the service event/ ambassador. High school ambassadors do more outreach activities on an executive board, including setting up panels for nonprofit leaders to speak to younger ambassadors as well as going to the elementary schools themselves to speak about GIVE Day.

This year’s GIVE Day is “pretty sentimental” as it will be the last one for this year’s graduating seniors — including Hladky’s son — who started the idea when they were fifth graders. Hladky said the involvement in the service event has grown since its creation and most people in the community now know what GIVE Day is.

“Kids really shine and have the opportunity to lead and step up,” Hladky said.

Connell Henderson, one of the 42 fifth grade ambassadors at Oak Street Elementary School, said his position is “pretty cool” as he and others get to help those in need. Henderson also said he likes working with high schoolers who help out with GIVE Day, and is looking forward to going


Register at:

JUNE 26TH - 28TH, 2023

JULY 24TH - 26TH, 2023

Youth (grades 1st-6th)

ability level.

• We have assembled a veteran group of coaches experienced in camp instruction & dedicated to helping each camper become a better softball player.

Location: George Mason University Softball Field Camps are open to any and all participants within the speci ed age range.

For questions about Justin Walker Softball Camp

Please contact: Justin Walker 703-993-5630 (O) • 419-569-1853 (C) • George Mason University Attn: Justin Walker— Softball MS 3A5 4400 University Drive Fairfax, VA 22030

GIVE DAY allows FCCPS students of all ages and grades to participate in a large community-wide service event since its start seven years ago. (Photo: Chrissy Henderson)

to the Food for Others warehouse.

This year, FCCPS is partnering with Food for Others for its Day of Service by organizing ‘Power Packs’ for children in the region who may not have enough food to eat. The packets will be distributed to local schools by Food for Others.

“When the representative from Food for Others came to talk at our meeting, I learned there are so many

He said locals can get involved with GIVE Day by coming to Meridian High School on January 16th to help the young GIVE Day club members assemble their Power Packs. There will also be other activities for families to help with — including making enrichment toys for animals in shelters and decorating reusable tote bags, as well as making donations on GIVE Day’s

News-Press $300 •
swing mechanics & base running. • Players of all ability levels are welcome. Campers are divided by age &
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George Mason Head Coach Justin Walker welcomes you to register for this summer’s Softball Camps! Camps will focus on the fundamentals of all aspects of the game including proper throwing mechanics, increasing arm strength,
fundamentals (IF, OF, pitching & catching),
Sample Daily Schedule 9:00am: Check in 9:15am: Stations/Skill instruction 11:30am: LUNCH 12:15pm: Warm up 12:30pm: Position play/Skill instruction 1:00pm: Scrimmages 2:00pm: Pick up REGISTRATION DATES City Residents: February 6th Non-City Residents: February 13th HOW TO REGISTER 703-248-5027 (TTY 711) SUMMER 2023 SUMMER CAMPS CITY OF FALLS CHURCH RECREATION & PARKS REGISTRATION OPENS AT 8:00 AM

Summer Camp For All

For some lucky American children, summer means campfires with new friends, long hikes in the woods, hot days swimming in cool lakes, magical nights under starry skies.

Summer camp is a cherished experience for millions of children, an American tradition with deep roots in the country’s enduring romance with the great outdoors. As much of the United States reels from the pandemic, gun violence and threats to its democracy, the summer camps many have enjoyed for generations may offer something else: healing for America’s young people.

By nearly every measure, American youths are in distress.

A surgeon general’s report last year noted a 51 percent increase in emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts by adolescent girls in early 2021 compared with the same period two years earlier.

Among high school students, 44 percent reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless in the past year, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey released in March.

More than 200,000 American children are estimated to have lost a parent or caregiver to Covid-19. Native American children lost parents or caregivers at more than three and a half times the rate for white children, according to a December report from Covid Collaborative, a national group of experts dedicated to helping children dealing with such losses. The report found that Black and Hispanic children lost parents or caregivers at more than two times the rate that white children did.

The kids are not OK, and why should they be? America is a country where large numbers of adults barely blink at the death of 1 million Americans from Covid-19, stand idly by as 19 children are shot dead in their classrooms in a single day and shrug as guns kill or maim thousands of children and teenagers every year. Those are our American traditions now.

The best gift America’s leaders could give young people is a healthy, functioning democracy. One small step the country could take to invest in their future, though, would be to come together around a new promise: to make summer camp available to every child in America.

Every year, about 26 million children attend roughly 15,000 day and overnight summer camps across the United States, said Tom Rosenberg, who leads the American Camp Association. There are roughly 57 million school-age children in the United States, according to recent U.S. census and homeschooling data.

It’s hard to imagine a more ideal escape for young people living through an extraordinary time of grief, loneliness and upheaval. At its best, camp can offer children a chance to learn outside the classroom, drawing them from their computer screens and helping them build stronger relationships with other children, themselves and nature. Especially for children living in poverty, summer camp can

be a great equalizer, giving them a chance to pick up essential life skills — such as swimming — often not taught in their communities. At many camps, children from diverse backgrounds forge lifelong friendships, develop a deep connection with and respect for nature, and learn to work as teams to overcome big challenges. These are values our democracy desperately needs.

Not every child will thrive at summer camp, and there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the outdoors and gain the benefits that come with socialization and play.

But if America wanted to, it could make summer camp accessible to every child who wanted to go.

There are camps that can serve nearly every child with every interest: camps for children who love to play sports or want to learn how to sail or ride horses, camps that offer weeks of backpacking along the Appalachian Trail or through the Utah desert, camps for children who have disabilities or are battling cancer or are experiencing homelessness.

Rosenberg said day camps range in cost from free to more than $200 per day and overnight camp prices range from free to more than $500 per day. Although scholarships and reduced fees are available at most camps, the experience remains out of reach for many, many families. To scale up, summer camp operators say they need a dedicated funding stream, more philanthropic aid and help with staffing.

No one is suggesting that a few weeks of summer camp is a cure-all. But researchers, educators and parents say the kind of experiences that summer camp can provide — a safe, healthy space to play with children who are different from them and to build confidence in the great outdoors — can change children’s lives.

Like so much of American life, access to safe and healthy spaces to play is unequal and especially disadvantageous to Black and Latino children. One study, commissioned by Hispanic Access Foundation and the Center for American Progress, found that nearly three-quarters of minorities in the contiguous United States live in communities that lack access to nature that includes clean air and water and a diversity of wildlife. Some funding for summer enrichment and after-school programs — at least $1.2 billion — was included in the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package last year.

Many large cities offer at least some summer programming for young people. New York City’s Summer Rising program is expected to serve 110,000 children in kindergarten through eighth grade this year. Programs such as this one serve a critical need, including by providing free meals. But while it does offer some recreation and field trips, the program largely focuses on academics. The city’s summer jobs program, which serves children as young as 14, is often sold to the public as a way to reduce crime.

There’s a better way. America’s children deserve to have some fun.

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CAMPS & SCHOOLS REGISTRATION DATES City Residents: February 6th Non-City Residents: February 13th HOW TO REGISTER 703-248-5027 (TTY 711) SUMMER 2023 SUMMER CAMPS CITY OF FALLS CHURCH RECREATION & PARKS REGISTRATION OPENS AT 8:00 AM Camps and Schools 2023 See Inside this Section Page 8: Local Programs Aim to Give Children With Special Needs a Camp Experience • Page 10: Theater Camps Teach the Arts & Life Skills to Children of All Ages Page 12: Henderson Middle Hosts Restorative Programs for Students Rising 1st-6th Grade June 20 - August 18, 2023 Falls Church, VA 8:30 am to 4:30 pm $340/week

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Local Programs Aim to Give Children With Special Needs a Camp Experience

Although the concept of a “camp” is a place offering simple group accommodations and organized recreation or instruction, these programs can mean much more to children who may find it difficult to participate in the physical activities a camp provides or the social aspect of it as well.

In the City of Falls Church and surrounding areas, there are camps that are specifically aimed at children and young adults with special needs. These camps allow those who may have physical or intellectual limitations a way to experience what makes a camp so fun and impactful for children their age.

LCF Kids is a children’s gym located in the Little City that focuses on skills such as gross and fine motor skills, motor planning, dynamic and static balancing, visual spatial awareness and more. Founded in 2011, the main goal of LCF is to create an environment for

children with special needs that provides them with a space where they can practice both physical exercise and motor/ social skills.

LCF also provides a variety of camps throughout the summer, spring and winter, such as the “Get Moving Get Social” therapeutic summer camp that incorporates movement, selfesteem building and social skills through the use of team sports.

Ricardo Cunningham, the founder of LCF Kids, said the camps and programs the gym provides are mostly geared toward children with physical or intellectual challenges to work on their motor and social skills. However, a participating child can bring a sibling along who may not have special needs so that the child can interact with someone they are more comfortable around.

This can also create the opportunity for other participating special needs children to experience playing and interacting with others who may not be like them, and vice versa.

“We are a very big advocate for inclusiveness,” Cunningham said. “We figure if the special needs kid can work with the typical kids, it will make our [camps] better.”

The camps provided by LCF also give families an option to send their child to a more local environment, compared to other programs that may be at further locations. According to Cunningham, the camps and programs only take place at their Falls Church location, due to the organization having various activities such as a rock wall, trampoline, and interactive/balance games that help a child physically and cognitively.

“Most of the equipment at the gym is designed to work on motor and cognitive skills naturally without the child even being aware,” Cunningham said.

An example would be the rock wall at the gym, which Cunningham said allows children to practice their physical skills by moving their arms, legs, toes and fingers, as well as

their cognitive skills by having to plan whether they want to go up, down, left or right.

The mindset behind these camps is to provide a way for a child to be able to participate in activities outside of the gym, such as going to school and playing on a playground.

According to Cunningham, if a child can participate in

children with

to experience a

the camps/programs offered by LCF and improve on their motor and cognitive skills, they have a better chance in taking those lessons into the outside world.

In Alexandria, Speech of Cake, Inc. provides help in personalized pediatric speech, lan-

Continued on Page 13

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Theater Camps Teach the Arts & Life Skills to Children of All Ages

When one thinks about the theater and performing in a show, they probably think it’s a way that a person can learn how to memorize lines or act with others. However, it can also be a way for young adults to learn about empathy and communication skills, as well as raise their self-esteem.

During the summer months, children can take part in camps and programs that explore the world of theater and what it takes to be an actor. According to a January 10th article by The New York Times, theater can also impact a child — between the ages of 5 and 18 — on developing their communication skills across age, gender and race. These communication skills can lead to someone possessing higher self-esteem and enjoying happier relationships.

The City of Falls Church hosts a variety of camps over the summer months, including programs focused on theater, improvisation and acting. Ashley Hammond is the managing director for Educational Theatre Company, which partners with the Little City to pro-

vide theater camps. This summer, Hammond said the city will be offering four theater camps catered to third through eighth grade children that focus on musical theater, theater skills, comedy improvisation and skits or sketches.

Hammond said that participating in these theater camps can help a child to learn about empathy and team-building skills; things she stated were interrupted due to the pandemic. She also said the teachers for the camps and programs are really good at making sure an individual child’s needs are met while keeping the rest of the group moving forward, she said.

As for how these theater camps can impact a child outside of the program and in the real world, Hammond said it can make children “better listeners, as well as learning how to work with others and becoming comfortable with public speaking.” One important thing she stated she has seen is that the theater camps can help a child “open their eyes to other cultures and worlds,” giving them an opportunity to understand various points of views.

“It’s about making a good

human,” Hammond said, “and I think theater brings young adults sympathy for other people.”

Heather Sanderson, the governor of education for The Little Theatre of Alexandria, said the main goal of providing theater camps and programs is to give children an “opportunity to explore what theater is all about, as well as broaden their horizons.” Since its opening almost 90 years ago, The Little Theatre offers about 50 camps and programs that take place between mid-June through the end of August.

“We’ve been told that these camps really open kids’ eyes to all sorts of different performing arts opportunities,” Sanderson said.

Sanderson also said theater camps can be a way for children to create friendships and learn and improve skills “they already have or want to build on.” She also said a child’s confidence can blossom from attending these camps and programs: A child who may be shy on the first day of camp on a Monday can gain enough self-esteem to perform in front of an audience on the last day of camp on a Friday.

“There is something about the programs that make kids feel great

about themselves,” Sanderson said. “They learn to cheer each other on and to be supportive of their peers.”

During the spring and summer breaks, Creative Cauldron offers theater camps based around a certain theme, which can explore “multicultural myths” to folktales, as well as a popular musical theater summer program.

“These camps really offer an opportunity for some kids to get their feet wet for the first time in act-

ing, theater and the arts,” Creative Cauldron’s founding artistic director Laura Connors Hull told the NewsPress. “It’s really important to honor creative ideas in kids and to give them a sense of agency about that.” Hull further stated participation in these camps is a way a child can learn about working with others as a team. This can lead to “great collaboration and communication

Continued on Page 13

THE LITTLE THEATRE OF ALEXANDRIA’S main goal for hosting their theater camps is to give children an opportunity to “explore” what theater is all about. (P����: H������ S��������)


Have a School or Camp You Want to Promote?

Register at:

JUNE 26TH - 28TH, 2023

JULY 24TH - 26TH, 2023

Youth (grades 1st-6th)

Sample Daily Schedule 9:00am: Check in 9:15am: Stations/Skill instruction 11:30am: LUNCH 12:15pm: Warm up 12:30pm: Position play/Skill instruction 1:00pm: Scrimmages 2:00pm: Pick up

• George Mason Head Coach Justin Walker welcomes you to register for this summer’s Softball Camps! Camps will focus on the fundamentals of all aspects of the game including proper throwing mechanics, increasing arm strength, defensive fundamentals (IF, OF, pitching & catching), swing mechanics & base running.

• Players of all ability levels are welcome. Campers are divided by age & ability level.

• We have assembled a veteran group of coaches experienced in camp instruction & dedicated to helping each camper become a better softball player.

Location: George Mason University Softball Field Camps are open to any and all participants within the speci ed age range.

For questions about Justin Walker Softball Camp

Please contact: Justin Walker 703-993-5630 (O) • 419-569-1853 (C) •

George Mason University Attn: Justin Walker— Softball MS 3A5 4400 University Drive Fairfax, VA 22030

Henderson Middle Hosts Restorative Programs for Students

When a student goes to school, they may be expecting to learn about mathematics, science, history and more academic-based subjects. However, at Falls Church’s Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School, students are being taught ways to emphasize dialogue and connections with one’s self and others.

Inside Henderson Middle School classrooms, teachers are using what is called Restorative Practices to promote accountability amongst peers and restore “broken relationships” through peer mediation in the form of a circle.

According to an article by the International Institute for Restorative Practices, Restorative Practices is a field within the social sciences that studies how to strengthen relationships between individuals, as well as social connections within communities. These practices have deep roots within indigenous communities throughout the world.

MEHMS Special Education teacher Sara Tennyson teaches “social emotional learning” for the school’s social emotional learning flex classes.

Tennyson told the News-Press in an interview this week that the creation of the Restorative Practices circle has been about eight years in the making. She began being trained in the practices in 2016, which initially she had never heard about.

“Restorative practices are on a continuum,” Tennyson said. “The very beginning of the continuum is effective statements and on the other end are the harm circles.”

In her classroom, Tennyson helps students learn and experience restorative dialogue and justice through the use of circles in a classroom setting. The point and purpose of having these types of circles is to “promote organic communication” as well as “connectedness,” according to Tennyson.

One student in the FCCPS video on the subject said a typical day in the classroom begins with daily “checkins,” which can be a way to find out if a person is “upset or not” and to “help comfort them” if they need to be comforted.

Tennyson said another purpose of having the circle is that it’s “neverending,” as students take what they have learned in the circle outside of the classroom and use it throughout

the school day. So far, she said she has seen a “tremendous increase in the communication skills” with her students, as well as in maintaining eye contact with one another when speaking.

“I have seen just a huge increase in students’ ability to communicate,” Tennyson said.

There are also Restorative Justice Circles used in the classroom that are focused on harm and misbehavior. These circles can be used to help someone in the classroom or at school who has done something to harm others. They are also a way to teach students, staff and adults that “when harm is done in the community, it doesn’t affect just one person, but affects the entire well-being of the whole community.” The circles can give the victim a chance to share how they were impacted by the offender’s actions or words, while also allowing the opportunity for the offender to take accountability and apologize for their actions/words.

According to Tennyson, the Restorative Justice Circles can be a way to counteract the impact of punitive measures placed in a school, such as detention, suspension and/or expulsion. For example, if a student

is suspended for five days of school, they are not only missing academic time and falling further behind, but are given a message that he or she is not wanted at the school.

“Granted, there are definitely circumstances that do require an out-ofschool suspension,” Tennyson stated. “However, Restorative Practices aims to mediate that and say ‘You’re taking accountability, [instead of] just going out of school for five days.’”

In December, the class shifted focus into “authenticity building,” which Tennyson said transitioned

from “non-confrontational” questions to more “vulnerable” questions such as what would one do to change their school day.

As for how these Restorative Practices Circles can be important for various other school systems, Tennyson said they are “vital to school culture, communication and rapport building with students.” She further stated she has had other staff members join the circles and a mutual agreement has been reached that more such “emotional learning” should

be taught in the classrooms.
MARY ELLEN HENDERSON TEACHER Sara Tennyson applies Restorative Practices in her classroom (Photo: Sara
Contact: Sue Johnson • 703-587-1282 Reaching The Falls Church, Fairfax and Arlington Markets
Summer Programs • Camps • Colleges • Speciality Schools • Test Prep Early Childhood programs Nursery/Preschools • Elementary/Middle/High Schools Aftercare programs • Open Houses/Tours • Fall Recruitment • Study Abroad Bilingual and TESOL programs • Learning Centers/Test Prep/College Prep/Tutoring Tutoring • Online Education Services • Sports, Music & Theater Workshops

Programs Getting ‘Bigger and Better’

Continued from Page 8

guage, literacy and orofacial myofunctional programs. This summer, the organization will be providing two different camps in June and July that will help children with special needs. The first camp in June will be for children in third to fifth grade, focusing on literacy skills. The second camp will be for children entering kindergarten through second grade, which will focus on the instruction for articulation — like how to pronounce a sound.

Courtney Overton, the owner and founder of Speech of Cake, said she and her fellow co-founder Leigh Poole saw a need to introduce a summer enrichment program for students who “didn’t necessarily” qualify for special education services after both being former Fairfax County Public School teachers.

The camps and programs provided by Speech of Cake admit all “different types of students with different disabilities,” due to Overton and Poole’s belief that “inclusion

Theater Camps Help Teach Agency and Promote

Continued from Page 10

is very important” due to some children needing help with various instruction, such as articulation or literacy.

“We believe that all students have strengths,” Overton said. “We want to highlight that and make sure that each student is also getting what they need.”

Overton stated that every year, the camps and programs keep growing and “getting bigger and better” due to ideas coming from the staff and the guardians of the children who participate. She further said that there are not many camps like what Speech of Cake offers in Alexandria, and based on the results recorded from hosting their past programs, it has been “stunning” to see the progress of children learning how to read and overcome language difficulties, she said.

“We want everyone in the entire company to be able to do what we do in terms of educating [the children] and understanding the latest and greatest research.”

skills processes, while also learning to develop self-confidence,” she said.

“I can’t tell you how many former students have come back to say the experience they had at this performing arts camp helped them feel more comfortable when they were speaking in public and in all aspects of their lives,” Hull said. “These camps really develop social and emotional intelligence.”

The Traveling Players Ensemble hosts theater camps and conservatories for children from June to August. These camps can range from one week day camps to six week camps, including a one week sleepaway camp option. Greek myths, fairy tales and Shakespeare are taught and performed by the attendees of the camp, who range from young children to high schoolers.

Jeanne Harrison, the founder and producing artistic director for the Traveling Players said the main goal of hosting these camps and conservatories is providing “joy and connection.” She further stated these camps can be a way that children can figure

out who they are while also learning how to memorize lines, lead others, think on their feet and “free up their imagination.”

Morgan Shotwell is the director of communication outreach at the Traveling Players as well as a theater camp “alum.” She said taking part in these camps can teach both soft skills, such as communication and connecting with others, as well as “hard life” skills that can teach them about independence, such as learning how to do their own laundry and

cleaning their dishes while attending the sleep away camp program.

“It’s really easy to do camp chores, but it lets them take ownership of their space and their experience,” Shotwell said.

Both Harrison and Shotwell said these types of camps and conservatories, such as the weekly theater camps and sleepaway camp, can give young adults the ability to go to college and “find their footing really fast” due to them learning both creativity and independence.

CAMPS & SCHOOLS JANUARY 19 - 25, 2023 | PAGE 13
THE TRAVELING PLAYERS ENSEMBLE have theater camps ranging from day camps to overnight camps. (Photo: Jessica Wallach)
2-12 • 703-987-1712 • Visit Our Tysons Corner Studio Sleepaway Acting Camps Beginner & Advanced Actor Training SMALL BY DESIGN • AWARDED FOR EXCELLENCE Day Camps in Tysons! REGISTER TODAY | 202.547.5688 JUN 20–AUG 19 TWO- AND THREE-WEEK SESSIONS CAMP SHAKESPEARE 2023
“my growth as an actor was immediately evident”

Falls Church School News & Notes

Fourth Graders Present Artifact Showcase

The Fourth Grade students at Oak Street Elementary created an Artifacts Showcase shortly after their trip to Jamestown. Students were tasked to create an artifact that could have been found in or around the Jamestown area. During their PYP Unit of Inquiry, Where We are in Place and Time, students discussed and explored the fundamental concepts of change and causation through the lens of the earliest inhabitants of Virginia. Students in the fourth-grade classes could retell a small part of their stories with the artifacts they created and the journals they wrote from the perspectives of the two cultures that met in Jamestown in the early 1600s.

This Year’s Give Day A Smashing Success

The Elementary GIVE Day Club hosted almost 350 attendees who came and assembled 2,147 power packs. The Falls Church Chapter of AKA Sorority assisted the behindthe-scenes crew of ambassadors, Meridian mentors, and parent volunteers. In addition to Power Packs, the community donated several hundred pounds worth of canned goods to the Food For Others Food Bank. Attendees also helped sort sports gear that will be shipped to Africa, designed reusable tote bags for groceries, and made enrichment toys for small pets to donate to the animal shelter.

More than 120 middle and high schoolers packed 25,000 pasta meals for the Outreach Program. Half of the meals packed will be sent to local food banks to feed families in our area. The other half will go to

Ukraine. GIVE Day Ambassadors — students who’ve spent the past two months planning GIVE Day and running fundraisers — set up (and cleaned up) the packing stations and trained their peers in the packing process. The MEH GIVE Day Ambassadors would like to shout out 8th grade English teacher Ross Mandel, the school GIVE Day sponsor; the nearly 20 teachers and administrators who volunteered either to get pied or have their hair redone by students to raise money for GIVE Day; and the many community members whose financial support made this packing day possible.

Operation EarthWatch Open for Students

All elementary students are invited to participate in Operation EarthWatch. This month’s theme is

Recycle and Reuse. Complete all five activity sheets (November to March) to receive a free T-shirt and certificate and be eligible to march with other EarthWatchers in the Memorial Day Parade.

Local Students Selected for District Honor Band

In December, MEH and MHS Band students prepared a rigorous

set of audition materials in hopes of being admitted into their respective District Honor Band middle and high school ensembles. Students competed against the other top students in our regional district, including Alexandria City and Fairfax County Public Schools. Hear these hard working musicians in concert on Saturday, February 4th, at Hayfield Secondary School, at 2 p.m. as they prepare and showcase a full concert program in mere days.

THE ELEMENTARY GIVE DAY CLUB hosted almost 350 attendees who came to assemble 2,147 power packs. The community donated several hundred pounds of canned goods. (Photo: FCCPS Photos)

2023 Camps & Schools

Pages 7-11


Summer Camps Help LGBTQ+ Teens Fight Isolation

Summer camps provide an excellent setting for all youth to socialize, learn, make friends, and enjoy themselves in a safe setting. For LGBTQ+ youth – especially trans youth – an inclusive camp can also provide deeply-needed social and emotional support.

For most LGBTQ+ youth, there are not many others who share their identity within their immediate school or community, causing many to struggle with exploring, expressing, or being themselves without fear of rejection, judgment, or harassment. Further compounding this outsider feeling, hate groups across the U.S. are currently targeting trans youth through an unprecedented wave of bills introduced in state legislators, including Virginia – and regularly flooding school board meetings with hateful and inaccurate rhetoric.

Camp Free2Be, located in Arlington, offers such an experience with a one-week day camp for transgender, nonbinary, and gender-diverse youth ages 6-14.

They also provide a “Junior Counselor” program for teens ages 15-18 to serve as role models and assist with programming.

The camp was founded by Director Liz Matthews, who also facilitates the Northern Virginia chapter of He She Ze and We, a Richmond-based organization that serves families with transgender loved ones through support, education, and advocacy. She was seeking out a positive summer experience for her daughter, who is trans, but she wasn’t ready for a stay-away camp far out of state. “I wanted her to find her tribe – her community” said Matthews, who says the program has grown from eight campers to over twenty, with almost as many Junior Counselors, since its inception five years ago.

Registration for Camp Free2Be is currently open at FCNP0223cf. This year the camp is being held in collaboration with SMYAL, an organization focused on empowering LGBTQ+ youth.

Kelly Merrill, mother of a trans teenager in Hanover County, decided to send her son to a genderdiverse program after a positive experience at a playgroup for other

trans kids. Merrill first brought her son to the group just after he came out as trans, at the age of ten, because he was feeling alone at school.

“He was the only trans person he knew or had even heard of.” Merrill recalled. “He was pretty sure he was strange and unlike anyone ever, which led to some serious isolation issues.” Coincidentally, Merrill was able to find the group through the aforementioned He She Ze and We, via their main operation in Richmond.

The initial experience didn’t go smoothly. “At first he was very upset by the experience, assuming he was the only trans kid there. I guess he was assuming he’d be able to tell.” said Merrill, who had to explain to him that the group was exclusively for other trans kids. “When we told him that every kid there was trans, he lit up in delight and relief!”

“For just one week of his life he got that chance to be just like everyone else.” Merrill added. Her son now attends a local summer camp that is affirming and friendly. He hopes to be a counselor there one day.

2023 SUMMER CAMPS REGISTRATION IS OPEN! Visit for full details and to register REGISTER TODAY | 202.547.5688 JUN 20–AUG 19 TWO- AND THREE-WEEK SESSIONS CAMP SHAKESPEARE 2023 STORIES YOU’LL WANT TO Virginia News Reader delivers the best local news from around the state to your inbox. And it’s always free. Scan the QR code to subscribe. READ SHARE REPEAT

Mustang Basketball Finishes Regular Season With a Win

The girls’ basketball squad at Meridian High returned home on Tuesday night for their regular season finale, playing host to William Monroe. The JV team got the evening started with a win, and then the Mustangs’ seniors were given recognition before the Varsity game tipped off at 7:30. Meridian wasted no time

break, but the Mustangs answered with a 10-0 run of their own to span the remainder of the third quarter, and the result was never in doubt. Head coach Chris Carrico emptied his bench early in the fourth as the Mustangs won by a final tally of 55-20, ending their regular season with a 20-1 record with the lone loss coming back in December. Elizabeth Creed scored 17 points to lead the way, while Nora Stufft also


FCCPS Strategic Plan: A Living Document, Not a Dusty Binder

We can all agree that the words “Strategic Plan” aren’t nearly as exciting as “First Day of School,” “Graduation,” or “Snow Day.”

However, in Falls Church City Public Schools (FCCPS), there’s much to be excited about as we implement a new Strategic Plan, with significant initiatives and programs already underway.

Last spring, FCCPS completed a year-long strategic planning process with more than 1,000 participants generating big ideas and robust discussion for the future. We are now turning those ideas into meaningful action in five areas of focus: Investing in Our People; IB Infused Teaching & Learning; Wellness, Equity & Belonging; Resource Management & Continuous Improvement; and Communication & Engagement. The actions in these focus areas encompass every facet of the school division. Some are continuations of programs; others are brand new. In this caring community, all FCCPS employees are involved as part of their daily work.

Here are some of the great things

underway in each Focus Area: Investing in Our People FCCPS is committed to being the school division of choice for employees, and a number of new initiatives are making this happen.

• Employees are participating in a tuition reimbursement program with Northern Virginia Community College and can take classes to learn English or earn Teacher Licensure or an Associate’s Degree.

• A Professional Development committee is working to improve and expand the professional development programs that are offered to staff so that employees can grow personally and professionally. School and central office administrators are participating in leadership professional development, as well.

• A Compensation Study is underway to ensure that FCCPS salaries are competitive. Additionally, many employees earn Extra Pay for Extra Duty (EPED) stipends as coaches or club advisors, and a committee is conducting a structural review.

• The following salary and benefits are included in the Superintendent’s Proposed FY 24 Budget, which is still under consideration and will be finalized in May.

º 2% COLA and Step Increase for eligible employees, and a longevity bonus for those at the top of the scale.

º Health insurance rate decrease for employees who work less than full-time.

º Six weeks of paid parental leave.

º Increase the sick leave payout for employees with more than five years of service.

IB-Infused Teaching & Learning

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme is the backbone of FCCPS. In order to make IB more understandable, our staff are creating presentations, websites, and videos, along with stories and photos in The Morning Announcements.

• We are working to extend IB teaching and learning to Jessie Thackrey Preschool.

• At both elementary and secondary schools, changes to report cards and grading are communicating student progress more accurately to families. For example, students at the middle and high school are using a new progress report format that asks them to reflect on their quarterly progress to identify strengths and areas for growth by goal setting.

• At Meridian High School students are registering for the IB Career-related Programme, which is a new option for 11th & 12th grade students, and participating in the Academy of Sustainable Thinking, which provides students with an understanding of the role humans play in impacting the social, environmental, and economic effects on the world.

• In cooperation with Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation and the Falls Church Education Foundation, the creation of an Inclusive Local History curriculum is underway and will be incorporated in all grades.

Wellness, Equity & Belonging

• Employee groups are working to identify and remove barriers to equitable access so that all students and families are welcomed and able to be involved.

• A Parent Survey is being drafted that will be launched this spring.

• School-based activities supporting student and staff wellness are taking place.

Resource Management & Continuous Improvement

• Employees have been participating in Focus Groups, a Superintendent’s Forum, and tak-

ing advantage of opportunities to identify needs and opportunities for growth.

• The City of Falls Church and FCCPS will be working with a new financial institution, which will streamline the work of the Finance Department and reduce fees.

Communication & Engagement

• ClassTag is a communications app that allows teachers and parents to communicate in their preferred language.

• Parent liaisons are working to ensure that multilingual families are connected and included in the FCCPS community.

• A Communications Survey launched this week. Everyone in the community is invited to respond. The survey is at This is just a snapshot of work that has begun and a preview of the next five years. FCCPS is grateful to everyone who is bringing the Strategic Plan to life — employees, parents, students, and community members.

For additional details, including performance measurements for each part of the plan, visit

FCCPS Strategic Plan: Midyear Update

Investing in Our People Wellness, Equity & Belonging

• Development of divisionwide team focused on removing barriers that prevent equitable access

• Parent survey being drafted for spring release

• Equity Division Leadership Team identifying barriers that prevent equitable access to school programs

• Alignment of Multi-Tiered System of Support practices across schools

• Piloting "FCCPS Takes 10 Check-In" to monitor well-being

• School-based activities supporting staff wellness

Communication & Engagement

• Communications survey underway

• Streamlining teacher communication with elementary parents via ClassTag

• Parents can select preferred language to communicate with teachers

• Parent liaisons working with multilingual families

• Where to Find FCCPS Information flyer coming soon

Resource Management & Continuous Improvement

• Focus Groups held to gather information on staff needs

• Superintendent's Advisory Committee convened

• Increased use of, and training on, technology like employee Intranet and Frontline

• Bank change & new equipment to increase efficiency of finance team

• School Staff Advisory Councils (SAC) ensure strong communication between staff and leadership

Budget Proposal aligned with Strategic Plan

School Action Plans aligned with Strategic Plan

People involved in project implementation

• Compensation Study underway

• EPED Committee at work on structural review

• 2 days of religious holiday leave available per year

• Professional Development Planning Committee convened

• 360 Leadership Development of site-based and central office administrators

• Tuition reimbursement program for employees to learn English or earn Teacher Licensure or Associate's Degree. 12 employees participating Spring 23.

Proposed in FY24 Budget

• 2% COLA and Step Increase

• Health insurance rate decrease for less than full-time employees

• 6 weeks paid parental leave

• Sick leave payout increase for employees with more than five years of service

IB Infused Teaching & Learning

• New elementary report cards

• Secondary grading & reporting changes

• IB Career-related Programme authorization pending

• Academy for Sustainable Thinking in development

• Inclusive Local History K-12 curriculum project

• Work to increase understanding of IB in the community

• Expanded opportunities for collaboration across schools and grade levels

• IB PYP Programme development support visit planned for Jessie Thackrey Preschool for more information including performance indicators


Donate to Used Shoe Drive

Donate old/used shoes to boxes outside the Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School and Meridian High School front office from February 13th — 17th. All donations will be sent to Shoes4Souls, a non-profit organization providing shoes to those in need.

Substance Abuse Panel Coming Soon

On Wednesday, February 22 at 7:00 p.m. — 8:30 p.m., families and community members can join the Virginia Family Network for a virtual panel presenting the latest information about how schools are addressing youth substance abuse. School division leaders from local school divisions will share current challenges, how they are addressing them and how families can get help. RSVP at

Henderson 7th Graders Take on Philadelphia

Seventh-grade Civics students traveled to Philadelphia to visit the National Constitution Center. The interactive educational experience brought the material from the classroom alive for students. They participated in the cultural ambassadors program through the theme of the 1st Amendment — Freedom of Speech. They explored interactive exhibits focused on the Civil War & Reconstruction, the 19th Amendment & Suffrage Movement, and the Three Branches. They interacted with the Founding Fathers in Singers Hall and watched an immersive show about the con-


They also had a Q&A opportunity with a Federal Judge from New Jersey who spoke about how she deals with 1st amendment rights cases in her position.

MHS Swim and Dive Compete In Finals

The Meridian Swim & Dive Team competed in the Region 3B Championships at Colgan High School. The Mustangs came away victorious as the Boys Team are the Region 3B Champions, and the Girls Team are the Region 3B Runner-up. The chase for both teams came down to the last relay of the day – the 400 Free. The Boys Team won with just a 44-point difference thanks to the relay team and the Diving team for giving the team a 53-point advantage leading into Saturday’s Swim Meet. The Girls Team was victorious over District Rival Brentsville’s Girls Team by just 4 points but could not match Maggie Walker’s 140-point advantage.

The team travels to Richmond next week, February 16-17, for State Championships.

Congrats to District Honors Chorus

Congratulations to Asha Nath, Megan Tombul, Isabel Pierce, Ailene Neal, Izzy Baskins, Eudora Neal, Matthew BlossBaum, Aubrey Marrow, and Alex Steinbach for magnificent performances in the District X Honors Choruses this weekend. These students were selected for these choruses during auditions last November. A special congratulations to the students that were selected for All Virginia Honors Chorus: Eudora Neal has been selected for the SATB

OVER THE COURSE of this school year, MHS sophomore Allie Zagorski has taken the lead in developing a series of instructions for tasks in the vivarium oncampus. (P����: N����� J����)

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