CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, JAPAN
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa - “C! H! A! M! P! S! Champs that is who we are. We move around the world bonded both near and far. Air Force, Marine, Coast Guard, Army and Navy; we Champs are kids like you, we hope you see.”
The chant could be heard as young children sang along in the Zukeran Elementary School cafeteria April 23 at Camp Foster.
Debbie Fink, the co-author of “Little C.H.A.M.P.S: Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel,” enchanted thousands of students with 30-minute presentations, or as she calls them, “edutainment,” at eight schools on Okinawa April 22-26 during the Asia-Pacific USO tour.
The main reason for her visit was not to promote her book, but rather to put smiles upon the children’s faces, according to Fink.
“Right now, our focus and emphasis is lifting the morale of our littlest C.H.A.M.P.S — of our unsung heroes, and letting them know that they’re not alone and reminding them that they are special,” said Fink.
Fink spent the visit singing the C.H.A.M.P.S song and dancing, all while tying academics into the presentations by teaching American sign language, mathematics and language arts.
“Every presentation has to reach and teach to multiple learning styles,” said Fink. “I’m a full believer in Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple learning. The music is for the audible learners, and ASL for kinesthetic learners since it holds their attention and keeps them busy. The story is for the cognitive learners and the banner and slideshow are for the visual learners. It’s a way to envelop the whole child and to reach, teach and touch every mind, heart and soul out there.”
The presentations were interactive, and the smiles reflected the children’s enjoyment while they learned.
“I liked singing the song and watching the video,” said Faith Reilly, a first-grader at Zukeran. “It was a lot of fun.”
The event provided opportunities for Fink to discuss many different challenges children of service members experience, like moving and coping with a parent’s deployment.
“The presentation addressed issues the kids face,” said Cindy Templeton, the principal of Zukeran Elementary School. “I was in Europe, where the Army was deploying for 12 to 15 months at a time, and there can be a lot to overcome. We staffed up our counselors. Here, we have a psychologist, but it’s still great to have something hands-on that the children can see.”
Fink had each “responsible adult” raise their hand during the event to point out whom the children could trust. She expressed how important it is for children to ask for help whenever help is needed.
“I think the big thing the kids got out of this is that they’re not alone,” said Templeton. “They can talk to other kids, and they have other kids they can rely on. Ms. Fink also pointed out who the advocates are, which was great for them to see.”
Fink had children hold posters with faces illustrating different emotions to demonstrate how everyone reacts differently to the same situation and show them each emotion is OK.
“She explained how everyone feels differently; sometimes you are sad, sometimes you are confused, and sometimes you are mixed up,” said Templeton. “Having all the faces up there acknowledged that it is okay to feel differently.”
The presentation ended with the children standing and being recognized while their parents’ branch of service’s song played, receiving a copy of the book, and singing and dancing along to the C.H.A.M.P.S song one more time.
“Goodbyes are not forever, goodbyes are not the end; they simply mean we’ll miss you, until we meet again. We’re proud to say thanks to the service of your dad or mom; your family helps keep America safe and strong!”
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This work, Author engages, inspires DODEA students during presentation, by Sgt Alyssa N. Gunton, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.