Lavaris Tomas (left) and his son, LaQuavious, both benefited from the Early Childhood Summer Enrichment Program.
Rarely are parent and child able to share similar childhood experiences. However, Lavaris Thomas and his son, LaQuavious, had the unique opportunity to experience such an occurrence as both have attended the Auburn University College of Education's Early Childhood Summer Enrichment Program.
Hosted by the college's Department of Curriculum and Teaching, the enrichment program, designed for children ages four to eight, has been held every summer since the mid 1980s. Lavaris attended the program for two summers when he was 7 and 8 years old in the late 1980s, and 8-year-old LaQuavious attended camp this summer for the first time. Lavaris was attending Dean Road Elementary School at the time, while LaQuavious now attends Yarbrough Elementary School in Auburn.
The enrichment program provides children with a safe and educational environment during the summer break when school is out of session. Centered on a general theme—this year's being magnetism and attraction—children visit various stations such as reading, writing, art, physical knowledge (science) and dramatic play. The program employs an integrated curriculum model and works to help children connect the pieces between math, science, social studies and language arts.
It also gives future early childhood education teachers practicum experience with pre-school and primary age children during the summer months, when access to children in schools is limited. Master's and doctoral students take on supervisory roles, evaluating the undergraduates' lesson plans and teaching skills, and troubleshoot any day-to-day issues that arise.
Comprised of two three-week sessions, the camp runs Monday through Thursday from 7:45 a.m. to noon. The sessions are separated by a week-long Fourth of July break, and parents can send their child to one or both sessions.
Lavaris holds fond memories of his time at the summer enrichment program; he even recalls a special monkey he constructed out of cotton balls and construction paper. He decided to enroll LaQuavious in the program because of his own experience as a child. "It's an opportunity for him to do something constructive during the summer, and it will also help his network of friends," Lavaris said.
Lavaris' experience with the College of Education did not stop with his time in the summer program. He later returned to Auburn to major in business and marketing education, completed his bachelor's in 2006, and is currently pursuing a master's in the same field. Still a student, not to mention a computer applications teacher at Opelika Middle School, Lavaris clearly demonstrates the value of education. He says he "enjoys learning," plans to take the LSAT and is considering pursuing an administration degree in the future.
An advocate of learning, Lavaris hopes to inspire his son to always pursue education. "Learning never stops," Larvaris said.