Camp Experience: Confidence-Building

By Melissa Rey

As any student with dyslexia will tell you, the classroom often brings more frustration than fun. One of the best ways to help a dyslexic learner is to help her find opportunities for success outside of school.

In third and fourth grade, I spent two very fun weekends at Space Camp at NASA in Huntsville, AL. After each adventure, I came away with a new sense of excitement and self-confidence.

Space Camp offered a hands-on experience, with an emphasis on communication and problem solving. On my first weekend I had the opportunity to simulate a real space shuttle mission and to build a scale model of my dream space station.

For my second weekend at NASA, I chose Pilot/Co-Pilot Camp (parents go along with younger students). Behind the controls in a state-of-the-art fighter plane simulator, I planned and executed thrilling rescues. My dyslexia enabled me to see the big picture, and I was continually scanning the entire flight area. I avoided being shot down and logged the most successful missions in my group.

MVP Honors

At the end of Pilot Camp, we were presented with our final challenge: E & E— Escape and Evasion. E & E participants are dropped off in a wooded area and told to find the signal campfire that represents the safety of base camp. Camp staff are hiding in the woods, so the campers must army crawl to avoid detection.

Nearby, I saw my fellow campers rubbing their arms and faces with mud and poking their hair with leaves and sticks to add a camouflage element. Instead of adding camo, I decided to use my nose. Taking into account the direction of the wind, I smelled the campfire and began my army crawl in that direction. I had a 10-minute head start over the other campers who were still decorating themselves, and I used that advantage to find base camp first and win the challenge. At the end of the weekend, I was honored to be named the camp MVP.

Space Camp helped me to understand that the challenges of real life were exciting and much less stressful than the drudgery and discouragement that I often found in my school classrooms. By working hard and not giving up, I discovered that I was up to any challenge.

The author is a graduate of Pomona College, where she majored in Cognitive Science.