Campfire's Camp Namanu helps kids explore classic kid literature

Summer may be halfway over, but there’s still a full helping of fun to be had. And, for those whose focus is already shifting to the start of the next school year, opportunities like those Camp Namanu has to offer promise kids the chance they need to reawaken their brains and brush up on math, reading and writing skills while having traditional camp fun.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Emily Ronk, 8, demonstrates the proper way to drink tea.“Our focus this year is combating summer learning loss. All of our themes are classic children’s books,” Beth Paluga said. She is Camp Namanu’s director and a Campfire Columbia employee.

“Recently Campfire started offering these programs in West Linn-Wilsonville. The schools like us to offer year-round programming,” Paluga said. “We try to get the kids out of the school buildings, to give them a little different experience.”

The camps are open to everyone.

“You don’t have to be a Campfire kid. You don’t even have to have Campfire in your school,” Paluga said.

Really, the top prerequisite for attending might be a love of reading — particularly of reading adventure stories. Starting with the legends of King Arthur and Alice in Wonderland, Namanu campers are reading some of childhood’s most classic adventure stories and creating their own adventures to go along with each week’s theme.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Ray Yoshmori, 7, enjoys a treat during Camp Namanu's Alice in Wonderland week July 2.“We try to do activities that rotate around that theme,” Paluga said.

During the “Alice in Wonderland” week in early July, for example, campers explored imaginary dreamlands and capped the week with a Mad Hatter-style “unbirthday” party. Campers made cupcakes and edible teacups as well as fabulous hats to wear to their unbirthday party. And, of course, they even sang “Happy unbirthday.”

With up to 30 campers in attendance, the camp is loosely divided into two units, to allow older and younger students to group together. The camp has a ratio of one counselor per six campers, and many staffers are licensed teachers. All are background checked each year. They also are CPR and child first-aid certified.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Cecilia Morrison, 9, sips a cup of tea during a traditional unbirthday party at Camp Namanu.Fun themes for the rest of the summer include “The Jungle Book,” “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” “The Swiss Family Robinson,” “Treasure Island” and “The Wizard of Oz.” Activities each week might include cooking, science, arts, crafts and more.

“They do a lot of traditional camp things. They sing a lot of songs, they play a lot of games,” Paluga said. “We always try to incorporate some learning.” That includes 30 minutes of reading time each day.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Six-year-old campers Elva Karls, right, and Dylan Ryan enjoy drinking their tea.The camp occupies the basement of the Willamette Methodist Church in West Linn’s Willamette area, 1683 Willamette Falls Drive. Campers have access to a small backyard area and to buses that take them on field trips to nearby Willamette Park as well as farther afield.

“We like to keep them busy,” Paluga said.

Trillium Creek third-grader Nyla Cabine, 8, attends camp with her sister Georgia, 5, who will enter kindergarten in the fall.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Orion Learner, 6, gets ready to have a little cake with his tea at Camp Namanu's unbirthday party.“There’s a lot of fun people, and they do fun parties like this. I come every week,” she said. “The best part of camp is having unbirthday parties. The other best thing is we get helpers and we play games.”

“We’d love to have more kids to join the fun,” Paluga said.

Camp Namanu’s $225 weekly fee covers snacks, trips, special guests and projects. Campers are expected to bring their own lunch. The camp runs Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and extended care is available starting at 7 a.m. and ending at 6 p.m. Additional fees apply for extended care. Register online at or call 971-340-1608.

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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