Michelle Porter, 13, is pretty honest about what she would be doing if she were not taking part in a summer camp at the Family Y of Greater Augusta.
“I’d probably be at home just sitting around and watching television,” she said as she took a break from games with Fort Gordon soldiers at the Augusta South site.
Summer inactivity leads to a disturbing phenomenon in which many kids gain weight two to three times faster over the summer than they do during school, according to a report released this week by the National Summer Learning Association. The problem is particularly bad for low-income families who might struggle to pay for summer camps or even day care, the report notes.
Because physically active kids tend to do better academically, sitting around may contribute to a learning loss over the summer. Low-income students tend to decline two grade levels in both reading and math, the report notes. Participating in a sport or an active summer camp can help slow those declines, the report says.
The summer camp program for elementary school-age kids in Harlem takes aim at both problems with math and reading programs and physical activity, said Julie Miller, executive director of Columbia County Community Connections.
“We think that kids need to be physically active, they need to be engaged, they need to be moving and thinking and doing all summer, not just lying around on the couch,” she said. The program will actually measure Body Mass Index and weight at the beginning and end, as well as check academic progress, to see what kind of impact the program has, Miller said.
On June 11, the Augusta Arsenal Soccer Club will begin offering its popular 3v3 Program, where kids come out twice a week to learn skills and then play a 3-on-3 modified soccer game, said Nick Edmond, director of the Girls Academy program.
“They’re going up and down the whole time, so it is a lot of exercise,” he said. “They’re always moving.”
And it is also important what they are not doing, Edmond said.
“They’re not sitting on the couch during the summer,” he said.
The fee for the program is $135, but the club tries to work with families who might not be able to afford it, Edmond said.
“We really just want the kids to come out and do some training over the summer,” he said.
This year the Family Y has a state grant to help pay summer camp fees for low-income families who cannot affordthem, said Ayarnia McKinney, site director for Augusta South. It can be a good deal for those parents, she said.
“They can go to work while having affordable child care for the children,” she said.
The summer camp is also fun for the kids, said Shelby Welch, 10.
“We get to go swimming,” she said.