GARLAND — Kenny Ray concentrated as he folded a piece of paper into a perfect geometric shapes. After several measurements, the 7-year-old made several Easter baskets. He hopes one of them puts a smile on the face of someone he loves or a senior citizen in town.
Local schools are closed for spring break, but students such as him are still learning through exciting hands-on activities. Mop Top Shop, Inc. is currently hosting its Spring Break Camp for children at St. Stephens AME Zion Church. It began Monday and will continue through Friday.
“The camp is really fun and I like it because you get to create stuff,” Ray said about making robots and creative things from Legos.
Based out of Raleigh, Mop Top Shop, Inc. travels throughout the state to expose children to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Jackie Johnson, its founder, returned to her hometown to educate children during spring break.
“We’re excited to bring the kids out for spring break,” Johnson said. “What Mop Top Shop wanted to do was come and ‘edutain’ (educate and entertain) the kids with some STEM-related projects.”
Early Tuesday morning, the campers made several baskets for themselves, family members and for members of the Garland Senior Citizens Center. During the activity, the children learned about geometric shapes such as the squares, triangles an rectangles.
“All of those shapes go into making the baskets,” Johnson said as she observed the students at work.
Later during the week, the students will be involved in a lot of activities. Some of them include making rubber band cars to learn about motion and force; and making slime.
“We just want them to have a good time this week over spring break,” she said. “They’re learning while they’re out of school.”
Johnson added that her program is an extension of what they learn in school and reinforces lessons.
“Teachers don’t have a lot of time to actually do a lot of hands-on projects that reinforce what they’re learning in the classroom,” she said. “That’s one of the things that we want to do with these after-school, vacation and spring break projects.”
Ten-year-old Tailena Spencer is enjoying the camp as well.
“We’re learning lots of different things,” Spencer said.
She likes science involving homemade rockets, lava lamps and volcanoes.
For Mickey Woodberry, the camp was a first-time experience.
“It’s great and it’s worth getting out of the house,” Woodberry said. “The camp has a lot of fun stuff.”
The week-long camp is not Mop Top Shop, Inc. first time in Sampson County. Johnson and her assistants participate in parades and event regularly with several mascots, such a Mop Top — The “Hip Hop” Scientist. During a previous summer, a Robotics Camp for youth was held at the church.
Johnson earned degrees from North Carolina State University. She later developed the program for children. In addition to state classrooms, Mop Top traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the White House Easter Egg Roll, with previous President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
Keisha Cromartie, the Youth Program & Activities Coordinator for St. Stephens AME Zion Church, assisted Johnson with the camp. The camp was invited as part of its “Spring into STEAM Break” educational program.
“I really enjoy doing this kind of stuff,” Cromartie said.