Words explored at 826 Valencia summer camp

young students play with 3d glasses

Young girl plays with color wheel If you’re wondering what it’s like to be involved with the crew at 826 Valencia in the amazing summer camp that is Exploring Words, below is a small picture of what went on during our amazing journey aboard the 826 ship.

This summer, 826 Valencia’s Exploring Words Summer Camp gained a new partner and location. The addition of Exploratorium staff to our 826 crew led to the crafting of a hands-on science curriculum that left students buzzing with excitement as they headed home each week with an array of inventions and projects. Exploring Words also moved sites, calling Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 school its home for the five-week program. Almost doubling in size from its previous year, the camp of forty students hailed from both our after-school tutoring programs at 826 and Buena Vista Horace Mann. Campers were divided into two classes, each paired with a team of science and writing interns leading daily investigations. Amidst these exciting changes, Exploring Words continued to be filled with science, writing, and fun packed days. Here’s a quick look into the explorations our students dove into this summer!


In the writing classroom, students equipped with pencils and notebooks expressed their ideas through various writing styles such as poetry, fiction, dialogue, and comics. With new terms such as metaphor, simile, and onomatopoeia entering their vocabulary, campers responded to writing prompts that encouraged them to explore their voices and use of sensory language. Tasked with creating world-bending characters, students imagined superheros, villains, and extraordinary protagonists that navigated their way through outrageous short stories. On a different note, students captured bits of themselves in “I Am From” poems, highlighting their strengths, passions, and backgrounds. No matter the writing format, the classroom was constantly filled with the sound of pencils on paper as students worked with the writing interns to transform their ideas into reality.


Every day at BVHM this summer, Exploring Words campers spent a significant portion of their busy learning days exploring diverse scientific concepts in that oh-so noisy science room, with their favorites being light, color, and electricity. Working alongside scientists from the Exploratorium, our science interns were able to create lesson plans filled with hands-on experiments like the motor-run scribble-bots, the clarinet-sounding membrane-a-phones, and the colorfully bright kaleidoscopes. After each experiment, campers used their keen observation skills to write reflections showing their understanding of the scientific concepts. Campers also incorporated skills acquired in their writing classes, such as writing haikus and “I Am From” poems, to express topics learned in science.


Another new addition to Exploring Words was an afternoon yoga class. Divided into small groups, the students took a break from the classroom as interns lead them in beginners yoga. Starting with breathing basics and sun salutations, students found a chance to relax and channel their afternoon energy into meditation and daily new poses. From tackling all four warrior poses, to filling the room with “meows” and “moos” during cat/cow poses, yoga class gave students a pause from the day’s business as they chaturanga-ed, balanced, and breathed their way through explorations of their bodies and minds.

Field trips

To celebrate the hard work they achieved all week in their writing and science classes, every Friday was designated as a field trip day for Exploring Words campers. Campers ventured to destinations such as the Exploratorium with its endless science exhibits, to Ocean Beach with its magnetic black sand, and finally to Dolores Park with its grassy hills and open field. Field trips exposed campers to a change of scenery where they applied concepts learned in the classroom through interactions with the real world.

Portfolio/Extended Lab

During the afternoons in their science and writing classes, Exploring Words campers mastered their writing skills by transforming their work into a new final draft by the end of each week. With the guidance of their hard-working interns and volunteers, campers practiced their revising and editing skills in addition to checking their spelling and grammar, giving them the power to further develop their ideas to fit their huge imaginations. By the end of summer camp, our team of super interns was proud of the polished, hilarious, and insanely creative pieces our students produced.


Before we knew it, the five weeks of camp flew by as students’ ideas overflowed our classrooms. On the last day of camp, students had a chance to celebrate their science and writing explorations with staff and families held at 826’s famous Writing Lab. Each student took a turn at the mic sharing a bit of their writing, a thank you, or something they learned during the action-packed course of camp. Though we were sad to see these beautiful and vibrant youngsters go, we will forever remember our campers through the mature and spontaneous pieces of writing they were able to produce in just a matter of weeks. This compilation of writing selected by the campers themselves will be published in beautiful ink in our Exploring Words 2015 chapbook, which will be ready by the end of August.

A special thank you to our wonderful volunteers for their patience and perseverance when working with our energetic campers. This camp could not have happened without the support and warm presence they brought each day to camp. It has been amazing watching the team of volunteers interact with our intelligent campers in addition to hearing their feedback essential to our organization’s growth. They have contributed to a space where the power of writing opens up even the most shy of campers. As one of our students from After School Tutoring stated, “I used to not like writing, but now I do,” a refrain that echoes the extraordinary growth our students underwent during the five short weeks at Exploring Words.



826 Summer Interns and Staff

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