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This year, 95 students from three TDSB partner schools are attending the LEAP into Literacy Summer Day Camp at Branksome Hall.
July 28, 2017
Campers Reach Literacy Milestones
"One of our staff assistants attended the camp in Grade 5 and now she's working here!" beams Eric Song the LEAP into Literacy Summer Day Camp director.

Each July, for the past ten years, Branksome Hall has opened its doors to the Leacock Foundation's Leap into Literacy Summer Day Camp, which provides a fun and supportive environment for improving the reading, writing and oral communication skills for children in Grades 1 to 5. Fully funded through donations by Leacock supporters, the camp provides underserved youth with vital academic support and enriching recreational activities.

"It's inspiring to see how excited the students are," says volunteer Chelsea MANG'17. "I'll ask them to write five sentences and they'll write three pages."

Volunteers like Chelsea and Pauline SU'17, who was Branksome's 2017 Service Learning Prefect, play a huge role in ensuring that the full-day camp, which consists of literacy and math exercises in the morning and outdoor activities in the afternoon, supports all students.

"One student I worked with was really struggling in the beginning," says Pauline. "We did a few one-on-one writing exercises and I saw him improve a little more every day."

Since its inception in 2005, the camp has seen thousands of eager students from the St. James Town community attend—free of charge— through the support of the Leacock Foundation. For the past several years, Branksome Hall has raised funds to enhance the program with a much-loved trip to Norval Outdoor School. This year, 95 students from three TDSB partner schools are attending the Branksome location including Rose Avenue Public School, Winchester Public School and First Nations School of Toronto.

In celebration of "Canada 150 and Beyond", campers were visited by Rabbit and Bear Paws Puppeteer, who supports students' learning through the teaching of indigenous stories. Students also went on field trips to the North American Indigenous Games and the Toronto Archives. Another new initiative was inviting the Logics Academy to teach Robotics.

Eric attributes the longevity of the program to the caring and kind environment. "If kids don't feel good about themselves, then all our efforts go out the window. Creating that environment starts with getting to know the kids and being caring and kind."

And to help do this, the camp is implementing a literacy assessment to gauge starting levels. "Previously, we didn't have much data, since students were referred to us," Eric says. "In the future, when a student returns, we'll have data so we can focus our teaching and further begin to close the literacy gap."

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