By Nancy Gutierrez
Can one teen handle a dozen 12-year-olds 24 hours a day for one full week. It's being done all the time at SciCon, the science and conservation camp that hundreds of sixth grade students from around the South Valley attend each year.
High school students attend SciCon as counselors for the preteens during the week of fun and education. SciCon liaison Dani Franklin said counseling at SciCon is a big responsibility that requires a student to be at all times energetic and sometimes sympathetic to the junior highers.
Students aren't born to be counselors they must be trained and that is what 20 students at Exeter Union High School were doing last Friday in the old Library. Franklin visits high schools in Kern, Kings and Tulare counties with the purpose of training soon-to-be SciCon counselors.
"I want to teach the high school students two things," Franklin said. "How to be a good effective counselor and warn them what they are getting into so they don't get there and decide they are not prepared."
SciCon has strict policy involving appearance, language and attitude.
"The first important thing is you have to have fun," Franklin said. "If you're not having fun, the sixth graders won't have fun. If they don't have fun they won't learn anything."
Franklin also warned the students of the behavioral habits of sixth graders. She said the sixth graders grow to idolize the counselors and will copy every word mannerism and attitude they see.
"There will be 12 mini-me's running around who will come to depend on you and look to you for guidance. Its tough and it takes a special person," she said.
Franklin also informed the group that the students will not only want to look like their counselors they will want to learn about their counselors. She discussed how to effectively change the topic of conversation away from a personal discussion to one concerning the camp.
"Never answer anything about your pearsonal life," she said. "It's none of their business."
Franklin then had the students participate in an activity centered around problem solving. Students formed a formed a circle and by grabbing the hands of two people opposite them created a human pretzel that they had to undo.
One team successfully completed the mission the other did not.
"There will be problems. Sometimes you can solve them sometimes you can't," she said. "If you can't, remember there is help."
SciCon has a site principal, village coordinators and on-site teachers who assist the counselors with wayward students. It is first hand experience at what they have put their own teachers through.
SciCon counselors set a standard for the camp and are chosen based on grades. Sarah Roach is the Career Technician who runs the program. She said the program is a great opportunity for the students.