Several classrooms at the USM Jackson County Center in Gautier have been transformed into a rain forest. Every book that's read to the students takes them to the tropics or under the ocean.
The youngsters are reading, writing, and doing hands-on crafts. This is the first Summer Reading Camp held by the University of Southern Mississippi. Director Kelley Samblis says "We exposing them to fun activities, with skills like vocabulary, comprehension and writing."
Eight year old Marlon Jones says, "I came here to learn about a lot of stuff. Today, I learned about the cocoa tree and chocolate comes off the cocoa tree and the rain forest in Africa."
Leigh-Anna Ballard says, "I learned how to read, and all the creatures and stuff."
The program also provides a dose of reality for 68 undergraduate education majors from USM-Gulf Coast. They're getting field experience, and earning credit towards a degree. Future teachers, like Cynthia Dennis, are also getting a lesson on how to organize a classroom and deal with distractions.
Cynthia Dennis says, "It's given us a chance to be in a real situation. It's a little difficult sometimes, but we're just trying to keep them active, keep things coming to them constantly, do fun things with them."
Kelley Samblis says, "If you notice all the students are focused and excited about reading, and that was our goal."
The youngsters who took part in the Summer Reading Camp, belong to Head Start in Pascagoula and the Libby Center's Summer Program.