CAMP OFLA 2023

Plans are underway for Camp OFLA 2023!

Dr. Lori Winne
Program Director, Camp OFLA

Camp OFLA 2023 will celebrate its 18th year this summer! Many changes have taken place over the years, including languages, staff and campers! Camp OFLA is a one-week elementary residential camp in Ohio sponsored by the Ohio Foreign Language Association and located about 20 minutes south of Mansfield. Camp OFLA directors, teachers and counselors are excitedly planning new activities to celebrate 2023, so watch for news at www.campofla.org !  

So what is Camp OFLA? How and why did it begin? What happens during camp? 

Camp OFLA began in the summer of 2005 as Ohio’s contribution to the ACTFL “Discover Languages” campaign. Cheryl Ames, the OFLA Early Language Chairperson, and Lori Winne, OFLA ELL committee member, were the first co-directors. Dr. Winne continues to serve the camp as a program director.

Over the years the camp has offered Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish and, most recently, Korean. The camp was originally designed for 4th through 6th graders and was eventually expanded to 4th through 8th graders. Some campers who attended 5 years in a row later applied to be H.S. counselors. While many campers take one or two years of the same language, many like to experience a different language each year. 

In the beginning, Mrs. Ames received camper applications by mail and conducted business via telephone. Today, thanks to Assistant Director and past OFLA President and Board member Lucas Hoffman, the www.campofla.org website answers lots of initial questions for parents and teachers, posts current news, and allows parents to pay online. The Camp OFLA Facebook page allows parents to see photos daily as their youngsters attend camp. Word of mouth is still the best promoter of Camp OFLA, however, and new campers are often relatives or classmates of past campers. Teachers on the OFLA Listserv also help promote the camp!

World language teachers have also helped recommend H.S. counselors for the camp. Juniors and seniors who have had 3-4 years of the language are most often recruited and sometimes return during their college years. Some students receive community service hours for their school; otherwise they are paid a small stipend. H.S. counselors are given lots of responsibility to chaperone the campers, and most of all must speak their second language with the campers. 

The daily schedule involves 3-4 language lessons, but cooking sessions, arts and crafts, song and dance sessions, hikes and mealtimes are language intensive as well. H.S. counselors read bedtime stories and rehearse vocabulary to and from cabins with their campers. Evening activities are multilingual so that all the campers participate together in scavenger hunts, multilingual Bingo, Locked Box activities, etc. The problem solving skills are really put into action during these fun times.

Teachers for each language come from all around the state. Some have had elementary classroom experience. The sharing that takes place between teachers of the various languages is fun, exhilarating and helpful during the regular school year as well. Teachers not only share ideas for songs and games and fun camp activities, they also learn elementary techniques and methodology which they can adapt to their H.S. students. 

Camp OFLA is a “sleepover” camp. In 2022, the cost for each camper was $500 for the week. French, German, Korean and Spanish were offered. A number of campers received scholarships from the Greater Toledo Community Foundation which generously awarded $12,500 to the camp.

In 2021 Camp OFLA qualified for a Startalk grant. Startalk offers free camperships for the less-commonly taught languages. Camp OFLA 2021 was very successful. The NSA (National Security Agency) awarded Camp OFLA another Startalk grant for June 2023. That means kids in grades 3-8 can apply for FREE camperships in either Arabic, Chinese, Korean or Russian.

We have come a long way since 2005! Former campers have become high school camp counselors. Parents have advocated for after school foreign language programs in their districts. Several former high school counselors have become foreign language teachers!  Current teachers have learned new strategies and activities! Camp OFLA 2023 will continue to serve elementary, middle school and H.S. students, and world language teachers in fun and exciting ways!

OFLA supports ALL languages, language students, and language teachers! Startalk offers the opportunity to serve the less-commonly taught languages. We’d like to offer free camperships to the commonly-taught languages as well and welcome any ideas colleagues may have about funding sources! 

Camp OFLA will be seeking campers (25 in each language, including Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Russian). H.S. counselors in those languages are also needed. We have had success with heritage speakers who are also studying a commonly-taught language. YOU can help by talking about Camp OFLA to your elementary colleagues, high school students, and parents! Check out details and updates at www.campofla.org.