Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

It's nice to be on the ice in the summer

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Chris Rossi/The Gazette
Elizabeth Sharp, 7, of Montgomery Village practices during Ice Skating Camp earlier this month at Cabin John Ice Rink in Rockville.

While the August sun heats up the county and most children run around in shorts and T-shirts, some 8-to 12-year-olds bundle up in sweatshirts and mittens and head for the ice.

They were the campers at Ice Skating Camp at the ice rink in Cabin John Regional Park in Rockville.

"I happen to really like it," Abigail Ladaner, 8, of Potomac, said on a recent Friday, the last day of camp for her session. "It's fun to slide on the ice."

Neither Abigail nor her camp friend Elizabeth Sharp, 7, of Montgomery Village regretted starting the day by lacing on skates instead of pulling on bathing suits and heading for the swimming pool.

"I kind of like doing skating," Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth, Abigail and many of the other campers skate at Cabin John throughout the year so they were happy a summer camp program was offered. Some campers were new to the sport, choosing the camp as an opportunity to try something different.

Lucia Lee of Clarksville, decided the camp would be just right for her 7-year-old daughter, Emily.

"She has a lot of friends who roller skate and I thought this would help her [with that], but I think she likes this better," Lee said. "I'll bring her back next year."

Each camp session ran for one week, four hours per day.

Campers, usually around 25 per session, were divided into instructional groups according to skill level for formal lessons, which last about 30 minutes. After that they had free time on the ice — time for games or practice or just skating around. Most chose to stay on the ice rather than go back to the warmth of the classroom.

One activity guaranteed to get everyone off the ice was snack time, according to camp director Danna Saady.

"Skating is a great way to burn up energy and have fun," Saady said.

Besides snacks and skating, campers watched videos of ice skating competitions, had craft time and did special activities like playing in the piles of snow created when the Zamboni machine cleaned the ice at the three rinks at the skating center.

Campers considered that a special treat, especially in the summertime, Saady said.

Each camp session had a theme, she said.

The theme for the week of Aug. 4 was "tropical island." Others this summer were "magical mystery," "hooray for Hollywood," and, of course, "the Olympics."

"I had a lot of fun," Abigail said. "We do arts and crafts, and we also made a pirate ship."

She pointed to a cardboard box that had been transformed by the campers into a frightening sailing frigate, in keeping with the week's island theme.

But the main goal of every session was to teach ice skating.

"I love seeing a kid who comes and they don't know a thing about the ice," Saady said. "By Friday you can't tell they've never skated before."

The campers were stretched out across the large rink as lessons came to the end. No one seemed to want to leave the ice. They played noodle tag with large foam noodles usually used in swimming pools, chased Hula Hoops across the ice or played a noncompetitive form of ice hockey.

Playing games and using props helps the campers forget they were learning new skills and allowed them to improve without even realizing, Saady said. She added that most of the counselors are competitive skaters.

"It's hard if you do something you've never done before," Abigail said. "But everything's real fun."

Abigail and Elizabeth bent down to demonstrate a new move they were learning, one they said was hard called "shoot the duck." They squatted down in a tuck then held one leg straight out in front.

The girls did not seem to mind the cold at all. Abigail was dressed warmly in a fleece jacket and Elizabeth in a light knee length coat.

Adults around the ice rink were more aware of the temperature.

"It is cold, [but] it's a nice change from the outside," Lee said.