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Baldwin-Whitehall kids camp offers learning, fun combined

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Paynter Elementary fifth grader Maxwell Pratley, left, shows his newly crafted packaging tape toy to Baldwin-Whitehall elementary art teacher Toni Rogiero.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Whitehall Elementary fourth grader Kate Powell, left, shows her healthy cooking creation to Harrison Middle School German teacher Katie Ketcham, who is teaching elementary and middle school students how to cook healthy during the first ever Highlander Summer Camps this year.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin eighth graders Ryan Peters, from back left, Josh Luxemburger and Matt Lewis, look on as Baldwin High School social studies teacher Chris Reilsono shows them presentation skills during the first ever Highlander Summer Camps this year.

If it were up to him, Maxwell Pratley admittedly would be spending the warmest days of summer break inside playing video games.

His peers likely would be watching television, sleeping or “very bored,” he said as he hugged his latest creations — teddy bears and puppies made from packaging tape.

Instead of boredom, a group of elementary and middle school students in Baldwin-Whitehall spent last week at Baldwin High School transforming packaging tape into sculptures.

“I love art, and I'm a crafty kid,” said Maxwell, 10, a fifth-grader at Paynter Elementary. “This packaging tape art is really awesome.”

Students living in Baldwin-Whitehall participated in the district's first four-day Highlander Summer Camps, held between June 23 and last week. The camps were offered to students from the second to seventh grades and cost $50.

The seven camps ranged from lessons in healthy cooking to baby-sitting and computer programing.

The goal was to provide the district's youngest students with the opportunity to “experience areas of interest, areas of passion or just something new,” said Janeen Peretin, director of information and instructional technology, who coordinated the camps.

“High school students have the opportunity to explore a lot of their interests through elective courses, but you don't really see that at the elementary and middle school levels,” Peretin said.

Some of the skills taught to the elementary and middle school students typically are not taught until high school.

The hope is that the camps inspired the students to try something new and prepare them for future learning.

“I think it's really important to teach them new skills or possibly inspire them to pursue some learning on their own,” Peretin said. “I think play is equally important, but here they're playing and learning at the same time.”

The camps were taught by Baldwin-Whitehall teachers, many of whom had the opportunity to share their personal passions with students.

Katie Ketcham, a nine-year German teacher at Harrison Middle School, said she loves to cook and eat healthy foods.

“There's so many new things that they're getting to try,” Ketcham said.

Students in the healthy-cooking camp were introduced to tofu and learned to make ranch dip with Greek yogurt.

Chris Reilsono, a Baldwin High School social-studies teacher introduced students to new presentation software. After the four-day camp, students had confidence that they would head back to school with top-notch skills that will wow their peers and teachers alike.

“We can give better presentations than the other kids,” said Matt Lewis, 13, an eighth-grader at St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin School this fall.

“We'll impress our teachers on the first day,” said Josh Luxemburger, 13, an eighth-grader at St. Gabriel this fall.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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