Lori Winne, Ph.D., OFLA ELL Chairperson, Co-Director, Camp OFLA
Camp OFLA is 10 Years Old
Camp OFLA began in 2005 as Ohio’s response to ACTFL’s Discovering Languages campaign. Camp OFLA was created for elementary students in grades 3-6. It was directed by Cheryl Ames, French and gifted teacher from Middleton and the OFLA Early Language Committee Chairperson, and Lori Winne, elementary German and Spanish teacher from Toledo. Camp OFLA was a one-week residential camp where campers could select Spanish, French or Japanese for the week. The evenings were multicultural and multilingual so that campers learned and experienced more than one language throughout the week with activities such as dance, crafts, movies or PowerPoint shows, and treasure hunts. High school counselors were selected from around the state, promised to speak in their target language and often discovered they had more to learn in their everyday vocabulary in order to lead a conversation at the lunch table, walk with their campers through the woods to class, or read a story at bedtime. Campers were encouraged to use their new language all week and rewarded with Euros or yen which they could spend at the Camp OFLA store on Friday.
Changes Through the Years
Camp OFLA experienced a number of changes over the next ten years. Eventually, campers had more choices in languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish. Campers wanted to continue beyond 6th grade, so now students can enter the 3rd grade or have graduated from the 8th grade to apply. CITs (Counselor in Training) were added for 9th and 10th graders to keep them involved before they could qualify for a H.S. Counselor position. The number of applicants for H.S. Counselor has grown from a handful to over 50 per year! This past year we added a position of Assistant Teacher to give a university student experience before doing student teaching.
Camp OFLA is a language-learning experience for all who attend, but it is also a methods and strategies experience for the teachers. The sharing of ideas that can be taken back to the classroom in the fall is incredible. The networking is so worthwhile. Camp OFLA has even “grown” a Spanish and a French teacher – H.S. counselors who had no intention of teaching after college, but ended up doing so! These two young teachers are also OFLA members who contribute to the OFLA listserv, attend the conference and even present sessions!
Campers become CITs, then H.S. counselors. They communicate all year long through Facebook. Parents watch the www.campofla.org website, especially during camp week, as pictures and videos are posted daily. Midweek parents can Skype with their sons or daughters. In 2014, parents were invited to tent camp or sleep in a cabin on Friday night and join in the special last evening’s international festivities.
Camp OFLA 2015 and Beyond
Usually, an elementary Spanish teacher doesn’t encourage his students to attend camp because the lessons are beginning Spanish. This year, however, Camp OFLA will offer a level 2. Level 2 will be for those campers who have had prior language experience in Spanish, French, or German.
OFLA continues to support Camp OFLA with scholarships for campers and stipends for H.S. counselors and teachers. The mission of OFLA is committed to world language study beginning in the primary grades, so that every learner, from early childhood through adult, acquires a high level of communicative and intercultural competence. That mission is represented very well within the week of Camp OFLA and it is a mission for world language learners of all languages.
How can you help?
- Spread the word. If you know an elementary teacher in your district, share the info with him/her. Share the website www.campofla.org. You can also find a link on www.ofla-online.org. Talk about Camp OFLA on your own Facebook page.
- If you know of an existing elementary world language program, let the ELL committee know so they can contact the school(s) directly about the level 2 program for this summer.
- If you are a high school teacher and have a junior or senior that works well with kids and has good language skills, encourage him to apply.
- Check out the website and suggest improvements. Are we telling the public enough to help them make decisions about sending their youngsters to camp?
- Make a donation to Camp OFLA. The camp fee is kept as low as possible and scholarships are available for campers; however, activities, materials and special events require extra funds.
- Visit Camp OFLA during June 14-20 online or in person!