Young students in a classroom Tuesday morning sang songs, played games and colored like any other campers, but they had a specific goal in mind.
A weeklong, half-day summer camp hosted for the first time at Mercer University is helping teach the 13 campers basic Mandarin Chinese.
Miao Marone, who runs the camp, teaches Chinese at Mercer University and in the community. She said shes seeing increased interest in the Chinese language and culture.
Globalwise, China is becoming so important economically, financially and politically, she said.
Some Middle Georgia universities have more established Chinese programs than Mercer University does, she said. The college does offer beginner and intermediate Chinese language classes, and an Asian studies minor will be available for the upcoming year.
Mercer is trying to catch up and promote (Chinese) among our students and in the community, Marone said.
This weeks campers range in age from 5 to 11. A few of them have no experience with the language. Some have lived in China, and some are Chinese and their parents wanted them to learn more.
Young students in Bibb County public schools -- pre-K through third grade -- got a dose of Mandarin Chinese this past school year.
Marone is giving her students different writing worksheets based on their skill level. She asks students with more knowledge to lead during the lessons and to help during the fun activities. Some of the campers who use chopsticks at home, for example, showed younger ones how to hold them and pick up almonds they were practicing with Tuesday.
Marone incorporates other activities from songs to nursery rhymes in lessons. A catchy song from a video on YouTube helped her teach the colors of the rainbow. When Marone was teaching the students words such as head and hands, someone started singing head, shoulders, knees and toes, and then the campers sang through it several times in Chinese. With writing, even the campers who are proficient arent able to write many Chinese characters, so Marone is trying to introduce the practice to them a little at a time.
Chinese writing is very hard, she said.
One of the campers, Libby Hobbs, 10, was adopted from China as a baby. She said she had learned a little Chinese in lessons before the camp. She likes learning Chinese, but her favorite thing about camp is the coloring and the crafts.
On Monday, Marone showed the campers an authentic Chinese paint brush and had them try their hand at painting in a traditional style.
Marone said the camp started small this year because the idea for it didnt come until May, and she didnt have a lot of time to promote it. For next year, she plans to start gauging interest in the winter and aims to expand the camp, offering it for multiple weeks in the summer.
To contact writer Jaime Williams, call 744-4331.