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Doane hosts Adventure Zone Camp for 15th year

Doane hosts Adventure Zone Camp for 15th year

Students from Adventure Zone Camp outside the Omaha Zoo

For the 15th consecutive year, Doane University hosted students from Senshu University Matsuda Junior High School (SenMatsu) in Chiba, Japan for Adventure Zone Camp. The camp, which ran from June 16-22, is a week of fun activities and excursions throughout the state that allows the Japanese students to interact with Doane University student mentors, faculty, staff, and local middle school students.


This year, Doane hosted approximately 90 students and 10 staff members from SenMatsu. The students are all entering their 9th grade year in Japan and were able to interact with approximately 50 local middle school students from the Crete, Lincoln, and Hickman area.  Doane also had 15 student mentors assist with the program, serving as “camp counselors” throughout the week.


Students from SenMatsu took part in different classes on Doane’s campus, took visits to the Omaha Zoo, state capitol, Stuhr Museum, and Morrill Hall, to name a few places. The classes Doane organizes have different themes that are engaging and fun to enhance the SenMatsu students’ English speaking skills. Some of the themes included arts and crafts, sports, photography, and stop motion video -- fun things the students are interested in.


Jake Hoy-Elswick, Director of International Programs at Doane, helps coordinate the event each year.


“This program provides a really unique summer camp experience for the Doane community,” he said. “Over the years, many students and our faculty and staff have had these international experiences and we’ve been able to introduce local middle school students to peers from the other side of the world. These relationships and experiences are priceless for our community as we expand opportunities to build intercultural intelligence.”


“For our Japanese students, it’s a great opportunity to explore life in the United States beyond the stereotypes portrayed in popular culture,” Hoy-Elswick adds. “Students get to see parts of the U.S. that are underrepresented in the media and they have the chance to learn about the diversity of our country.”


While a number of the Doane student mentors at Adventure Zone are education majors, looking to have a unique educational opportunity outside of the classroom, some of the student mentors come from other programs. Ben Zwiener ’20, a computer science and mathematics major, said his experience at Adventure Zone was life changing.


“My experience as a counselor cannot be fully explained with words,” he said. “When I applied for this program, I had no idea what I was getting myself into and it exceeded all of my expectations! It was a week full of smiles, laughs, and many new friendships. I told my family and a few of my friends that this camp is the highlight of my life.”


Zwiener said his favorite part of the experience was the radical difference between first meeting his group and saying goodbye to them, how closely they had grown over just five days.


Hoy-Elswick notes that oftentimes the students from SenMatsu and the Doane students and local middle school students will stay connected months and years after the camp is over.

“My favorite part of Adventure Zone is watching the SenMatsu students build relationships with their Doane mentors and local students,” Hoy-Elswick said. “Through social media, these relationships often last well beyond Adventure Zone and serve as a form of cultural exchange for our guests and Doane students.”


Doane’s connection to SenMatsu doesn’t stop after Adventure Zone either. Doane has a student teaching program that allows education majors who are studying ESL (English as a second language) the ability to student teach at the middle school in Japan.


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