REENFIELD — The hallways at Harris Elementary School have been rather lonely this week.
The lights in the classrooms are dimmed, and the colorful drawings taped to the school’s brick walls seem oddly out of place while their creators are away on spring break.
But listen closely, and the sounds of children playing, laughing and learning still can be heard within the quiet building.
Gathered in the school’s cafeteria, more than a dozen youngsters from Greenfield-Central schools sit listening as YMCA staffer Nicole Wall reads them a story. These students are taking part in a day camp offered by the Greenfield chapter of the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis.
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During their days there, the kids make crafts, take part in science and math lessons and get plenty of exercise.
It’s one of a few programs various community organizations are offering this week to keep Hancock County kids active and engaged while they are away from the classroom.
“It’s less formal than the traditional classroom, but we try to bring learning into whatever activity we’re doing,” Wall said.
Students participating in day camps at Harris, McCordsville Elementary School and New Palestine Elementary School have spent the week learning from a whole spring-theme curriculum the YMCA created, program director Jennifer Dearmond said.
Every activity the children take part in during camp relates in some way to the curriculum. In staying true to the YMCA’s standards, the youngsters get plenty of time to run around and exercise and often have talks about the importance of healthy eating.
But the kids also go on nature walks where they learn about different creatures; they paint pictures of daffodils that lead into science discussions about flowers and plants; and they assist in cooking lessons or play board games that spark mini-lectures about the importance of measurements and other mathematical skills.
There’s no doubt the activities are fun for the young learners, who look forward to a break from the routine of the classroom, but they are also educational, filling the gap left by weeks out of school.
“Everything we do, we try to keep the kids learning,” Dearmond said.
Similar science-centered activities are going at the Hancock County Purdue Extension. Deb Cochard, a program director, has led lessons this week on gardening, archaeology and the chemistry involved in cooking. Each class session has been full of kids itching to keep their minds active, despite school being out, she said.
Most parents want to give their kids something productive to do during breaks, Cochard said, “but if it’s something educational, that’s even better.”
The Hancock County Public Library has been full of kids and teens looking to fill their free time. The library slated a few extra activities this week, including a lesson in entrepreneurship for kids and a storytime puppet show. But most of the foot traffic came from youth looking for books they might not have time to read during their school day, teen service librarian Sarah Ryan said.
With reading at grade level being a primary focus of standardized test, the library, too, seeks to bridge the gap while students are out of school.
And the effort has been successful, Ryan said.
“We’ve been very busy this week with kids and teens coming to check out books — stacks of books, sometimes,” Ryan said. “Spring break can be a great time to catch up on reading.”