A Summer Full of Mystery

Posted on October 18, 2018

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Mystery Camp Youth Participant

Meet Tawanna Maryland:
The Mastermind Behind the Mystery Summer Camp Program
By Tyrelle Lee, Human Development and Family Studies Intern at CNNC Fall 2018

AmeriCorps Member Tawanna Williams Maryland is passionate and driven in her stance to provide immigrant and refugee communities with extraordinary access to a better life. Partnering with the Social Arts Center for Justice, she established the very first Mystery Camp for the Center of New North Carolinians in the summer of 2017. It was a one-week scheduled event for the kids to “solve and win,” and continued this past summer.

The camp was held at the Presbyterian Church of the Cross, a community venue located in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. The camp served rising 1st graders through 9th grade students. High schoolers participated as volunteers and mentors.

The camp’s values centered around improving problem solving skills, challenging student listening, analyzing, team discussion, and presentation skills. As Tawanna states, “The learning process is highly experiential and creative risks should be encouraged without judgment.  A creative community of diverse learners and problem solvers will ultimately recognize that we all have the power to resolve and create change.”

The camp successfully benefited about forty children. The kids were challenged to solve mysteries in the form of a detective driven suspense. For the first three days, students rotated through a variety of stations including cardboard challenges, t-shirt making, scavenger hunts, digital design, and other activities led by volunteers and summer interns. AmeriCorps Members, partners, and interns saw this as an opportunity to improve their own team building skills and to encourage campers to use their imagination.

Throughout the week the campers were preparing to perform a fable titled, The Four Puppets: a tale of Burma.  From Tawanna’s perspective, “the highlight for me was preparing them for the performance. The students were so engulfed by the telling of the story. It was satisfying and a lot of fun to watch them act out the characters.” On the last day, the students shared their work in front of family, friends and judges. The kids were judged by adult mentors in the community on their creativity, clarity, and originality supporting a friendly competition that gave campers an opportunity to express their unique talents. The first place team wont a trip to Wet-in-Wild, a local water park.

Overall the week was a huge success, and built upon the rest of the summer activities. “Our students were affected by quality programming filling their summer. They were given options on a weekly basis that challenged their resilience and kept them motivated to learn. This is important when so many students suffer from ‘academic summer loss’, which reflects the inactivity over the summer,” Tawanna shares.

This fall, new fables will be shared with the students continuing an international theme and project that conveys its true meaning. Teams of volunteers will work with the youth to identify ideas and metaphorical language.

During the fall and spring, the book club will also co-sponsor  a “Superhero Puppet Project” asking immigrant and refugee families, “What would a superhero look like that would meet their many needs?” They will create the hero through paper-mache and found objects, and will display it locally as a collection and statement. This project was originated by artist-in-residence, Charlie Jansen in Cape Town, Baltimore.

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