Exploring Culture in Woodsdale

At the upcoming Japanese day camp at Wheeling Country Day School, kids will beat a watermelon to a pulp with a stick, make bamboo flutes, eat exotic foods and explore the beginnings of SuperMario Brothers, anime and Bakugan.

Along the way, they will learn bits of Japanese language and gain an understanding of a different culture.

During weeks when Japanese camp is not in session, French or Italian camp will meet. Those kids will make gnocchi, learn traditional crafts and songs, and discover interesting tidbits about their heritage.

These cultural and language camps will be augmented by traditional day camp activities, from slipping down a water slide to exploring the creek that runs through the 6-acre campus in Woodsdale.

“This is not academic camp. This is a cultural experience. It is camp,” said Liz Hofreuter-Landini, head of school.

All three camps are open to the public, and Country Day officials are hoping parents of Ohio Valley children from first through fifth grade will take advantage of these unique opportunities. Two-hour French and Italian camps for preschoolers (ages 4-5) also will be available.

“I think we have a jewel in this campus in the heart of Woodsdale. … I like that we’re able to share it with the community, especially with our neighbors,” Hofreuter-Landini said,

Doug Smith, who teaches Japanese at Country Day and spent four years living in Japan, will lead the Japanese culture and language day camp, which will take place the weeks of June 7, June 14, June 21, June 28, July 19, July 26, Aug. 2 and Aug. 9.

“Japanese pop culture is huge in America,” Smith said. Students might not realize Bakugan or anime come from Japan; or if they do, they might not know much about it. “We hook them with the cultural stuff and then show them where it comes from.”

Every Friday, campers will make a different Japanese food. At the end of the summer, they will travel to Pittsburgh for an authentic Japanese dining experience. They will watch Japanese cartoons and movies, dress up in Japanese clothes and play with Japanese toys, including video games.

The exercise in watermelon bashing is a Japanese game called Suika Wari, Smith said, and is similar to the Mexican pinata game. The making of bamboo flutes is a long-term, intensive project that Smith said is impossible to accomplish during regular school periods but is do-able at summer camp.

Angela McAteer, a native of South Africa who has lived in several European countries, will lead the Italian and French camps. She teaches foreign languages at Country Day during the school year, and previously taught Italian, French and multicultural studies for 12 years at Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy.

Preschool French camp will take place from 9-11 a.m. the week of June 7; while preschool Italian camp will be the same hours the week of June 14. First- through fifth-graders can attend French camp July 5-9 and Italian camp July 12-16.

“It’s something so exotic for (the children),” she said. “Camp gives them the opportunity to see, to touch, to listen; it’s a sensory thing.” Campers will make traditional food, listen to opera, try their hands at traditional crafts and collages, read poetry and learn the languages – “a jigsaw puzzle of goodies,” McAteer said.

Adding to Smith and McAteer’s expertise is Alexis Penz, who will be the activities director and before- and after-care coordinator for the camps. She has four years of experience as a counselor at Linsly Day Camp and was the head counselor for the Children’s Museum of the Ohio Valley’s Camp Cranium last year.

The camps, except for the preschool sessions, run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended hours available. For information, call Wheeling Country Day School, 304-232-2430 or visit wcdsedu.com.