COPPERAS COVE — More than 140 campers, 12 days of camp, hundreds of hours of reading instruction, endless hours of learning and fun.

Copperas Cove students from Hettie Halstead and Fairview/Miss Jewell Elementary Schools donned their Army green Reading Ranger Camp T-shirts as they gathered in groups with the headquarters company of the 62nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion of Fort Hood. They learned to tie knots, travel in tactical movements, land navigation involving a treasure hunt and survival skills which involved trying the U.S. Army’s meals ready-to-eat. They had so much fun, they did not realize they were reinforcing their reading skills with every activity.

The Reading Ranger Camp is paid for with a $1.5 million “Project READS” grant from the Department of Defense Education Activity. READS stands for Ready for Engaged Academics, Discipline and Self-Determination. Heidi Nelson administers the grant for the school district.

“Students are receiving reading instruction, literacy-rich activities and field trips, all with a fun camp theme,” Nelson said. “There has been a heavy emphasis on the use of procedural text within activities to support students’ understanding and practice with following directions.”

Prior to the Ranger Day activities, students experienced literacy activities to reinforce their ability to follow procedural text such as how to put up a tent or set up a camp fire.

Nelson said one strategy of the first goal of the grant is to improve reading academic achievement through student participation in an intensive reading program to prevent the “summer slide,” which resulted in Ranger Reading Camp.

“The summer slide is skill regression typically seen with students after the six-week gap between summer school and a new school year,” Nelson said. “Teachers at Ranger Reading Camp received professional development on effective reading instruction and the impacts of the summer slide. The grant funded teacher pay and training, resources, supplies and books for the camp.”

Students were given a self-selected free book every day of the camp and were also given free breakfast and lunch through the school district’s summer feeding program. The staff to student ratio at the camp was 1 to 10 with the target audience for the camp being military-connected students who received priority registration and comprised about one-third of the campers, comparable to the make-up of Cove’s student population.

“Military dependents have unique circumstances and vulnerabilities,” Nelson said. “The grant provides resources to help these students increase their resiliency and reach their academic potential.”

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