Broken up into six weeklong sessions, Kids U allows children to pick a morning class they will attend for the week before they begin ‘recess’ and game time in the afternoon. Classes are centered on subjects that cater to hands-on learning for children ranging from 2nd to 8th grade.
“We have a very welcoming community environment and the kids are excited to be here,” program director Teri Jones-Rodrigues said. “They have a chance to meet kids from all over the world because visiting professors to the university will send their kids her.”
Now in its 12th year, Kids U hosts hundreds of kids at the University of Nevada, Reno campus. Instructors are comprised of Washoe County School District teachers and counselors and junior counselors are made up of college and high school students working for community service hours. According to Jones-Rodrigues, the expansive staff allows for a 12-to-1 ratio of staff to children.
“Because it is a summer camp, we have the resources to expand in ways the school district is not able to. They can learn interesting facts and do something fun while they are in class,” she said.
Lance Mezger, of Sparks, sent his 11-year-old daughter to Kids U for the second consecutive summer and sent his son for his first summer. He said having his children choose their classes and being on the college campus are upsides to Kids U.
“Having them at the university breaks down that nervousness of being there,” he said. “They will grow up being familiar with that place which should make it easier for them to go there in the future.”
Mezger’s children have enrolled in “Exploring Pirate Island,” a class that teaches them the history of pirates while allowing them to construct pirate ships and flags. He said Kids U gives his children an educational option that makes the program more attractive than other summer programs.
“It is based a lot more on education and gives them learning opportunities. They seem very well organized with the WCSD teachers and the college-aged kids there,” he said adding that their flexible schedules were another reason he chose Kids U.
Children meet their counselors in front of the Joe Crowley Student Union at about 7:30 a.m. before walking up to Lombardi Recreation Center for an hour of games in the gym. At about 8:30 a.m. they are walked to their classrooms where their teachers have planned learning activities for the next three hours. They then venture back to Lombardi for lunch and more activities, such as swimming, dodgeball, board games and more. Parents begin picking their children up at about 4:30 p.m.
Jones-Rodrigues said the program is self-funded by the money paid each week for the children’s attendance. The main attraction, according to Jones-Rodrigues, is the midsummer talent show Kids U’s Got Talent.
Children will audition for the talent show during the week of July 16, bringing their singing, dancing and magic tricks to the stage at the Joe Crowley Theatre. The July 19 show is a highlight of the summer for children and parents.
“The parents love it and they get very serious about it,” Jones-Rodrigues said. “The kids get very excited about it and the parents are into it because the kids are into it.”
Several classes are still available for Kids U, which continues every week until July 27. Online registration and information is available at www.kidsuniversity.unr.edu.