Tommy, an 8-year-old student who had taken a Lego Robotics
class at his elementary school, woke up with a spring in his step. Camp was about to begin!
His mom, Debra, drove him to Santa Monica and parked in front of the First Methodist Church, on 11th Street near California. Up ahead a sign led them up a ramp and through double doors to a hallway. Music and the sound of kids playing echoed to their right as they entered into the large “Game Room”
Starting The Day
Inside there was a lot to take in. A few campers were sitting at a table littered with board games from “Operation” to “Battleship.” Three kids surrounded a game of “Jenga,” cautiously removing blocks and stacking them on top, all while hoping someone else would accidentally send the tower crashing down. Meanwhile a counselor challenged an camper to a game of “Connect Four” a camp favorite.
In the corner a group of boys played a spirited game of Foozball, with the ball launching from one side the other in an attempt to play a game of soccer with small figurines.
Tommy went straight to a pile of Legos and started building up a city with his buddy Jake. He waved at Debra as she signed him in, kissed him on the cheek and headed out the door, a smile on her face knowing he was well taken care of.
At 9:15am, the Camp Director Juan “J,” announced that camp was about to begin and he needed all the counselors and campers to make a big circle. They played a quick name game, followed by a fun round of “Down By the Banks” a game of speed and dexterity where kids sing a song and try not to be the last person who claps the hand of the person next to him, similar to “Hot Potato.”
“Hey Chef,” Juan said, motioning to one of the counselors dressed in a white chef jacket, “What’s on the menu today?”
“I’m glad you asked,” said Chef Mariam. “Take a look at what will be made by our cooking class,” as she pointed to a white board. “Today’s theme is “European Favorites” where we’ll be making food from a few different countries. The entree will be Greek “Kabobs with Steak and Vegetables” such as zucchini, cherry tomatoes and bell pepper. From France we’ll make “Ratatouillle”…who has seen the movie?”
Everyone’s hand shot up.
“Who has actually eaten it?”
The kids look around, quizzically, and put their hands down.
“It’s actually a really healthy and delicious vegetable medley. I think you’ll like it. And of course we’re going to serve a side of delicious Garlic Bread representing Italy and for dessert: Chocolate Lava Cake with Whipped Cream!”
The kids cheered, as they are prone to do when they know chocolate lava cake is in their near future.
“Sounds delicious!” Juan said. “And what about our Lego Robotics students, what will they be doing today Commander N?”
Nathaniel, aka Commander N, “Well J…we have a super important mission today. Professor Snot Rocket is trying to take over our camp! In order to stop him we have some robots to build. A Robogator here and a Tank bot there…just to make sure we are FULLY PROTECTED.”
“Ok campers, go to your teachers and let the day begin!” said Juan.
Commander N rounded up his campers in the Game Room as the Chef and her group headed to the kitchen. He led the students in their “morning salute” followed by some “secret agent exercises” before the kids went to their assigned Lego sets. Tommy paired up with Jake to start the Robogator, a fierce looking robotic alligator that can crawl, detect objects and even bite!
Tommy read the instructions and with Jake’s help finished the gator’s head. Around him another student was building an Electric Guitar, while another was building a snake that can slither around autonomously.
An hour had flown by and soon it was time for a snack break. The chef students joined up in the Game Room and snacked on apple slices, pretzels and baby carrots.
Tommy ran to the TV to get in on the first round of “Just Dance” a PS3 dance video game where you have to match the choreography of dancers on screen set to favorite pop songs such as Psy’s “Gangnam Style” Maroon 5’s “Move Like Jagger” and Selena Gomez’ “Come and Get It.”
The counselor setup the game as the group danced. Tommy’s friend Rachel got the high score that round, and soon another group of four played a new song.
After snack, Tommy headed to a computer station to program his Robogator Head. He built a simple program that when an object came within 40 cm of the Robogator head, it would start biting its mouth.
“Cool!” he said as the gator snapped when he popped his hands in front of its eyes.
Now it was time to build some a body and legs for his gator….but he noticed his stomach was grumbling. He wanted lunch!
Lunch Time For All
“Come and get it!” yelled Chef Mariam from across the hall. “But first, wash your hands!”
The Lego students quickly washed their hands and headed to the kitchen, where a table had been setup with plates, napkins, cups of water and a full plate of food.
The Steak kabobs smelled delicious and Tommy happily ate some steak, mixing it up with bites of veggies. His favorite was the garlic bread with fresh garlic, butter, Parmesan cheese and Italian parsley mixed together, spread on a French loaf and baked.
He looked at the Ratatouille, unsure whether he should take a bite or not.
“Try it!” said Rachel. “I made it! It’s actually pretty good for veggies.”
Tommy took a bite and tasted tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers and onion all slowly sauted together with a pinch of Herbs de Provence.
“Not bad,” he thought.
In typical kid fashion, the kids had cleared their plates in under 10 minutes. Everyone helped clear the table and headed back to the Game Room for another round of playtime: Just Dance, Foozball, Board Games and Lego play.
“Hey Rachel, lunch was delicious,” said Commander N. “My compliments to the Chef and her campers…but where’s desert?”
“It’s coming!” said Rachel. “We’re going to make it after our break.”
“Cool! Be sure to save me one!”
“We always do!”
Afternoon Cooking Session
Tommy headed back to the Game Room to finish his bot as Rachel stepped into the kitchen, washed her hands, put on her apron and got ready for making the day’s dessert. A group of boys and girls joined her as Chef Mariam presented the ingredients for the chocolate lava cake: dark chocolate, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and unsalted butter.
They measured and mixed the ingredients to make a batter before putting it in ramekins. Chef Mariam put the cakes in the oven to bake just enough to be cake-like on the outside but with a warm gooey chocolately center.
Chef Mariam then brought out a large bowl filled with a cup of heavy cream and a whisk.
“Who knows how to make Whipped Cream?” asked Chef Mariam.
“I do!” said Rachel. “You just whip the cream.”
“You are correct! And we will be doing it by hand. Everyone whisk for 10 seconds and then pass it along the bowl to the person to your right.”
Each student whisked as fast as they could to aerate the heavy cream. Within minutes it went from a liquid, to something a bit more sturdy until it was finally stiff and formed peaks that held their shape.
“But you know what we need…” asked Chef Mariam.
“Sugar!” the campers yelled in union.
Adding a few spoonfuls of sugar and a dash of vanilla extract, the chefs had completed their whipped cream.
“Who is brave?” asked Chef Mariam to the campers.
“Me!” said Rachel.
“Ok Rachel, I am going to hold this bowl of whipped cream above your head. If we did our job right, it should be so thick and sturdy that it doesn’t fall on to your head. Are you ready?”
“Ok class, let’s count, 1…2…3”
Chef Mariam turned the bowl upside down…and the cream did not fall from the bowl! She held it for two seconds, and then put the bowl on the table. The class cheered..then sampled the whipped cream, making sure it was delicious. After all, sampling the food is half the fun of cooking classes.
Camp Director Juan, walked into the room.
“Hey guys! It smells delicious in here. Let’s all take a break and go outside to play some games. When we come back, I bet the lava cakes will be ready!” he said.
Outside, the entire camp joined for a few rounds of classic games including: Steal the Bacon, Red Light-Green Light and Freeze Tag. 15 minutes later they walked into the kitchen and awaiting them were individual chocolate lava cakes with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.
The kids dug in, enjoying the dessert, having earned it after a day of cooking, eating a healthy lunch and exercising from dance games and playing outside.
Mom Joins In On The Fun
Camp was almost over and everyone headed back to the game room for a few more rounds of Just Dance as the kids got picked up by their parents.
Tommy’s mom entered the room and saw the kids playing the dance game.
“Gees, that looks kinda fun.” she thought.
Juan noticed her interest in the dance game.
“Hi Debra, would you like to try our dance game?” he said
“I shouldn’t..” she replied.
“One dance? It’s a blast…even the counselors have a great time. I’m sure Tommy would even like to experience it with you.”
“Yea!” yelled Tommy as he ran to greet his mom.
“Ok, just one song.” said Debra.
Juan selected “You’re The First, My Last, My Everything” by Barry White, a fun group dance song with a video featuring four people getting their dance on in an elevator. A definite camp favorite.
Tommy, his mom and two other campers joined in game. Everyone had a great time shaking and twisting to the music as other parents and campers cheered on.
The song ended and everyone had gotten 4 out of 4 stars! The highest score possible.
Debra signed out her son and as they walked out of camp she asked the age-old question to her son, “How was your day?”
“It was great!” Tommy said, glowing. “I built a Robogator with Jake, ate a good lunch and played with Legos. I even had chocolate lava cake for dessert!”
“I know, I can see the chocolate on your cheeks,” said Debra, chuckingly.
“Can I come back tomorrow?”
“Of course, you’re signed up for the next two days.”
“AWESOME!” Tommy said.
Debra, smiled as they got in her car and headed home.