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PALS camp teaches character, encourages STEM, physical activities

Health and Kinesiology

Saturday, June 15th, 2019

For some children, summertime means time at the pool, playing with friends and time away from learning.

But for 425 campers in Purdue’s 18th annual PALS camp, there will be time at the pool, spending time with friends, hands-on engineering projects, tennis and numerous other activities.

PALS camp, which stands for Purdue Athletes Life Success, started on June 13 and runs through July 12.

During those five weeks, the campers ranging in age from 8 to 14 will learn about exercise and healthy living through numerous sporting activities, as well as more about their community through a variety of hands-on educational programs.

Participants must be income-qualified and from Tippecanoe County. PALS works with area school corporations to coordinate participation and transportation in the camp.

PALS campers learn core principles and character pillars of respect, responsibility, caring/kindness and courage.

Bill Harper, co-director of the PALS program and a retired professor, said the activities are designed to keep children’s minds busy all summer long.

Harper said the staff encourages, motivates and inspires the campers to think about activities such as engineering and health and nutrition beyond the classroom.

“We are reinforcing learning just in a different environment,” Harper said.

Healthy meals at breakfast and lunch, as well as snacks are provided to the campers, as well as longer eating times.

“The number one takeaway for campers is friendships. We want them to have time to laugh and make new friends,” Harper said.

Groups are sent to the various stations to learn about engineering, judo, dance, swimming, health and wellness, nutrition in age-appropriate settings to name a few.

PALS campers have hands-on STEM experiences

In the engineering station, students are learning about 3D printing, as well as trying to design and build items astronauts would need on Mars. A maker space option is available for the teenagers.

The camp also provides special programs throughout the session. On June 20, campers will get to participate in drills with players and coaches from the Purdue football team. Other special projects include Purdue Federal Credit Union teaching financial literacy, as well as Freckles Graphicsshowing how to make a key fob. During several sessions, campers will be participating in service learning projects at area social service agencies and nonprofit organizations.

PALS campers get physical activity which builds teamwork and promotes healthy lifestyles

PALS Camp has about 60 staff members, many of them who are former campers themselves. Harper said it is important to have the support of past participants – including many who went on to earn degrees from Purdue. “Our staff looks like the camp. They are here to serve as role models,” Harper said.

One key thing the camp teaches every day are the core principles and character pillars of respect, responsibility, caring/kindness and courage.

“If we can help our campers learn the power of these four character pillars, they will be successful in any life pursuit,” Harper said.

PALS campers playing football

PALS receives assistance from numerous area businesses and foundation, as well as New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, a Purdue alumnus. The Boilermaker Half-Marathon and 5K, which will be held Oct. 19, also benefits PALS. Since 2012, the event has donated more than $75,000 to help the underserved youth of Tippecanoe County through PALS.

PALS is supported by the College of Health and Human Sciences and the Department of Health and Kinesiology, and it receives generous space accommodations by the Division of Recreational Sports and Purdue’s Dining and Residence Hall Services. PALS also receives support from Lafayette, West Lafayette and Tippecanoe school corporations, as well as Valley Oaks Health and the Indiana Department of Education.

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