A couple kids with items in their hands run towards other kids

Letcher County schools used money from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund to support a camp for K-8 students this summer.
Submitted photo

Amid the hills of eastern Kentucky, students in Letcher County were able to expand their world through the wonder of learning at an educational summer camp. The camp, hosted at Cowan Elementary School (Letcher County) on June 5-23 from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily, was for students in K-8.

The purpose of the summer camp was to provide academic and social-emotional support and enrichment opportunities for Letcher County students to accelerate and extend learning for the 2023-2024 school year.

The free-of-charge enriched learning experience was made possible by using American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding. ARP ESSER funding supports the safe and sustained return to in-person learning and expands equity by supporting students who need it most, particularly those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The ESSER funding for this camp is invaluable … Having children engage in school activities during the summer ensures that the process and motivation for learning stays intact,” said camp director and Whitesburg Middle School social studies teacher Brian Breeding.

Students received daily social-emotional learning, in addition to gaining knowledge about local animal habitats, physics, engineering and reading skills. Both breakfast and lunch were provided to students free of charge.

Students visited Kingdom Come State Park and observed forest animals up close. They also visited the Letcher County Extension Office where they talked with a master falconer about the Letcher County Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center. This facility houses birds of prey and students learned about birds like owls, hawks, buzzards and eagles.

Additionally, the Appalachian Regional Hospital Medical helicopter landed beside the school’s playground for a day, giving campers the opportunity to explore the air ambulance and talk to the staff.

A group of kids surround a helicopter

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Scotty Amburgey, Whitesburg Elementary School (Letcher County) 1st grade special education teacher, said that the camp was an amazing opportunity for the students, “especially those with achievement gaps or social competency issues.”

Breeding said that the camp will be offered next summer as it was a highly beneficial experience for students “both educationally and socially.”