Campers from pre-K to fifth grade are exploring STEM and creativity, learning about the Bible and having fun at the First United Methodist Extreme Camp and Vacation Bible School.

Camp co-director Sarah Scott said the church does VBS and Extreme Camp every year, but this year they combined the two on church grounds because it was easier than transporting the kids to another location.

This year’s theme was Power Up, and it featured characters and themes from all kinds of video games.

“It’s basically about how God’s power is going to fill us, how God wants to know us and how God wants us to know his word and to pray to him,” Scott said. “It teaches the kids how God can use us in our world.”

Gym was a popular rotation for the kids, at least according to 8-year-olds Laney Hebert and Anders Walker.

“I love gym and storytime,” Laney said. “Adam and Eve was my favorite story.”

“Sharks and Minnows is my favorite part of gym because it’s fun,” Anders said. “Being a minnow is more fun.”

Bible reading and storytime was another favorite of 10-year-old Caiden Goetzman, but Caiden also enjoyed the STEM activities like building the best paper airplane, even if it wasn’t the best paper airplane he’s ever built.

“I liked watching how far they could go,” Caiden said.

“You’d think it would be easy to teach them how to make a paper airplane,” 16-year-old volunteer Garrett Mastin said with a smile.

One room over, 10-year-olds Cissy Minces and Jaslynn Bolton were building a marble maze together out of paper plates, straws, tape and glue.

“We braided these streamers, and we put it at the finish, so they can have a nice treat,” Jaslynn said. “It kind of looks like a smiley face.”

“All of the camp is really fun,” Cissy said. “My favorite part is learning about God and hanging out with my friends.”

“I love making friends, learning about God and teachers not yelling at us,” Jaslynn said.

The camp is staffed by leaders from the church and volunteers, both adult and high school/middle school ages. Buckner and the J.D.’s Center for Hope also brought volunteers for the camp.

“I love volunteering because it’s a friendly face that the kids get to know and hopefully form a relationship with,” volunteer Dustee Knapp said. “I love seeing the excitement and fun that they have and seeing what they learn throughout the week because sometimes you think they’re not paying attention, but they pull out a really cool fact that they learned.”

Allowing the youth to volunteer had many purposes, Scott said.

“We wanted them to not only have an opportunity to serve and learn how to be a leader but also to teach the kids about their relationship with God,” she said. “We are so blessed to have such amazing youth, and our kiddos are just so awesome, too.”

It also builds a connection with the kids to the youth group so they have people in the youth group they know when they move into middle school, Scott said. This was especially true for sophomore volunteer Emily Davis. She said she loved being taught by high schoolers when she was their age.

“I love spending time with the kids,” Emily said. “I’ve been going to church for a while, and I remember being their age. It’s been so cool because I’m close with all of them. They’re so cute.”

The campers also raise items for health kits that the church donates to the Back to School Bonanza each year. The health kits include items like shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap and a comb.

Last year the church met and exceeded their goal of 3,000 kits, and they hope to do so again this year. The campers collected more than 3,000 bars of soap last year, and they got to slime their leaders, Scott included. This year they have a chance to make the leaders into an ice cream sundae.

“They like to give us a hard time, and I try to build it up so they think that I really don’t want to,” Scott said.

For more information on the FUMC, visit lufkinfirst.com. The church will host another camp July 15-19 called Camp Create.

Grace Juarez’s email address is grace.juarez@lufkindailynews.com.