CLEVELAND — After the first day of a sign language summer camp, Mattie Callahan was eager to show her parents what shed learned and hopefully score some dessert.
I told my dad I love cookies in sign language, and it was really cool, said Mattie, a student at West View Elementary School in the Cleveland community.
Campers at Johnston Community Colleges Cleveland Center spent last week immersed in the world of American Sign Language. Some signed up hoping to communicate better with deaf friends and family members; others were just curious about how to speak without saying a word.
Ive been wanting to learn sign language, said Aislinn-Anne Brown, a River Dell Elementary student.
By the end of day two, the small camp group was already far down the vocabulary list it had been given the young people could sign colors, the alphabet, basic greetings and more. And they were already working on the camps final project reading their choice of picture books in sign language.
Theyve caught on really quickly, said the camp instuctor, Wake County teacher Hannah Smith. Theyre very excited about it.
Smith is well versed in sign language, having used it to teach classes for deaf students. She first learned it from a best friend in fifth grade who was deaf. Shes also done research on signing to babies, who sometimes understand it better than spoken words.
Smith taught the mostly elementary-age campers through a mix of games and recitation. Sometimes, the kids asked to learn unusual words and phrases, and even Smith had to check a dictionary.
Weve done a lot where they cant talk; they can only sign, Smith said.
Some of the campers said they were surprised by the words they found hardest to remember in sign language. I get confused about as and if, Mattie said. The larger words are easier to sign. Colors are really easy.
The sign language camp was one of many summer programs offered by the college this year. Just down the hall from the aspiring signers, a packed room full of kids played simple tunes at the Guitar Hero camp. Other programs, wrapping up later this month, include jewelry making, writing, engineering and photography.