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Summer Camps and Classes Canceled? Manhattan Beach Teens Step In

Aug 07, 2020 09:49AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
It's been a tough summer for kids, and perhaps no one knows that better than...other kids. So when the pandemic caused the cancellation of most camps and activities, Manhattan Beach teens stepped up to create opportunities for fun and learning over the summer.

Through beach camps, tutoring, and a variety of different lessons, enterprising teens around town have found ways to reach their younger counterparts in this strange and socially distanced time.

"We knew that parents would be struggling to find activities during the day for their kids," said Teagan Owen, an incoming Mira Costa junior and the co-organizer of the Bubble Sitters babysitting/beach camp. "In these times the camp helped give kids something to look forward to. It gave them the opportunity to make it feel like a normal summer."

Below is a sampling of what teens have been working on around town:

 Beach Camp: Throughout the summer a variety of teen-led "beach camps" have sprung up around Manhattan Beach. The Bubble Sitters camp, led by Owen and incoming Mira Costa junior Kimiya Torabi, provided child care and safe beach activities for kids ages 5 to 12 (the camp lasted through July 31, although Owen and Torabi are still open to future camp or babysitting activities upon request). Both teens are experienced babysitters as well as MIra Costa water polo players. Owen has been part of the Junior Guards program for five years and is lifeguard certified; Torabi is First Aid and CPR certified and has worked as a Beach Sports summer camp counselor.

"We spend lots of time playing games in the sand, and having lots of fun water time," said Torabi. "A majority of the kids are in elementary school, but we do have an option for the older kids to have a mock Junior Guards day including swims, surfing, and exercises."

Does it make a difference that the camp is run by teens? "We do believe that the kids respond differently to us than they would to an 'adult' counselor," said Owen.

Added Torabi: "They see us more as a friend or older sibling instead of someone who is obligated to watch them. By being closer in age to the kids, it allows us to bond and relate with them easily."

To reach the Bubble Sitters for future camp or babysitting opportunities, you can email them at [email protected]; or view their Instagram at @Bubblesitters.

 Coding Classes: Sydney Weisberg, a rising junior at Mira Costa, loves computer science and has been helping elementary students learn a coding program called Scratch. She tutors kids online through Zoom, and she tries to customize her lessons to match up with kids' interests. For one young student who loves Harry Potter, for example, she designed a Hogwarts-themed lesson.

"I remember how when I first started coding it was kind of hard, but I still remember the feeling of, 'This is really exiting,'" she said. "So I try to bring the same excitement to the kids. I want them to have a passion for it."

Being a teenager can help with relating to kids, she said. "As a teen I maybe get more excited about it then many adults would."

(To reach Sydney for coding lessons, text her at 424-903-5217.)

Math Tutoring: Liam Berger, a rising junior at Mira Costa, is a standout math student who enjoys helping other students work through math challenges. This summer, he started a tutoring service called Beach Tutoring, specializing in math classes from primary grades through Algebra 2.

Berger says that he knows what it feels like to be intimidated in a math class because he has often been one of the youngest in his classes. "Math can also be intimidating because it can progress so quickly," said Berger. 

He added that he can relate well to younger students' challenges - in part because he's experienced those math classes more recently and is familiar with the current curriculum.

"I’ve been in the same shoes as a lot of kids who are stuck on problems, or confused with certain concepts," said Berger. "I can be patient while showing them how to work through a challenge because I've been through it myself."

Berger, who is also an award-winning Model U.N. participant, runs his tutoring services through Zoom (a first trial half-hour is free).  He plans to continue the program through the school year and possibly offer other subjects upon request.

Fishing Lessons: Harrison (Harry) Mathis is an incoming Mira Costa senior and expert fisherman who loves teaching kids to fish. He has been offering (free) fishing lessons and has worked with kids as young as age 4.

He says that kids tend to respond well to a younger person who is teaching them a new skill.

"I feel that if someone closer in age is teaching them, they feel more comfortable and willing to listen and learn," said Mathis.

Although he teaches all kids, he is happy to work with special needs kids. "It's such a great community. I love to teach them new things that they can do."

Mathis usually works with kids at the Manhattan Beach Pier or the Hermosa Beach Pier and shows them how to fish for mackerel. He supplies all of the bait and equipment. "All they have to do is bring themselves to the water."

(To reach Harry for fishing lessons, text him at 310-956-2344.)

Drama Classes: Local teens run the show - literally - at Anchorless Productions, a theater company and drama program for special needs young people and adults. The executive board includes rising Mira Costa juniors Ben Henschel (executive director), Caroline Kiely, Hayden Asiano, and Erica Boylan.

Kiely said that when the group's plans for a spring musical had to be canceled because of the pandemic, the team shifted to Zoom drama classes. 

Throughout the summer, they have been offering the classes two times per week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, focusing on musical theater as well as acting, scenes, and monologues.

Kiely said that the Zoom classes have been a good way to reach students who have had their routines disrupted by the pandemic. "A lot of them, especially when school went online, didn’t have the same help and services they usually do," she said.

The students seem to respond well to their teenage drama coaches, added Kiely.

"We’re going through a lot of the same experiences," she said. "It's been a great opportunity to connect with each other and form friendships. It creates a good dynamic because even though we’re their teachers, we’re also their peers."

They're planning a fall/winter production of Frozen, and if it can't be in person, they'll do that on Zoom as well.


P.S. Want to know more about what Manhattan Beach kids have been up to during the pandemic shutdown? You can read more about:

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