Ten-year-old Chris Young used to spend summer mornings lazing in bed before going outside to "chase the girls" or watching shows on television.
This summer, the Southeast Washington youngster is spending his mornings sharpening his academic and social skills in a program run by the National City Christian Church.
"You have to teach them without them knowing it," said Artye Hellner, director of summer enrichment program at the church at Thomas Circle.
Young is one of 50 children attending the five daily classes in language skills, art, music, religion and civic and social responsibility. Most of the children are black and from lower income families, according to Hellner.
The program, which costs the church more than $9,000 a year, was begun 18 years ago with another church and later joined the federal Project Head Start. In 1969, the church took full responsibility.
Children entering the fourth through sixth grades are chosen on a first-come basis, accordinng to Hellner. "Although we try specificaly to reach those with the worst problems, they're usually the ones you can't reach through flyers and school announcements."
This year, more than 60 children applied, Hellner said, but enrollment was limited to 50.
Carleton Bakkum's music class is in chaos at 11 a.m. A girl bangs her umbrella on a nearby chair, on her leg, and on a neighbor and sings, "Show some calcium!" Another girl breaks into tears and storms out of the classroom. The other nine children laugh at her.
The fifth grade group snaps to attention as Bakkum arrives and strikes the first few piano chords of "Music, Music, Music." They clap their hands and dance in their seats singing "Put another nickel in, in the nickelodeon . . ."
Chaos breaks out again but Bakkum, a Princeton Seminary student-intern, recaptures the children's attention with a Reggae version of The Lord's Prayer. The class picks up the beat with tambourines maracas and blocks of wood.
It's religion time and the eight third-graders are extremely fidgety. Sue Rutt, their instructor, tells them the Nativity story through questions. s
"Who knows the name of Jesus' mother?" "Mary," they agree.
"What about her husband, who was kind of like Jesus' father when he was growing up?" she asks. "Moses!" yell a couple, the rest nodding in agreement.
"No, it beings with a J," she said. "George!" "Joshua?" "John?" they guess.
"I know who stoled your frog," a girl yells across the table, ignoring the lesson. "Shut up!" her friend responds.
Rutt breaks in, restoring order. "Do you know what city Joseph and Mary lived in?" She asks. "Canada!" "No, New York?" they shout.
In 50 minutes they hear the rest of the Nativity story, memorize a Bible verse and read a half-dozen Bible passages, before leaving for "special activities" period.
Special activities, usually devoted to learning about the community or family through activities such as map drawing, or discussing inner feelings, today is spent collecting trash at Scott Circle NW.
The eight children walk down Massachusetts Avenue eagerly collecting flattened beer cans, cigarette butts, and papers of every shape and size. They scurry through hedges, around monuments and reach far under parked cars gathering enough trash to fill two plastic bags.
"I don't think I'm going to throw any more soda cans or other stuff on the ground," two youngsters agree.
The most structured class, "Language Arts," focuses on students' individual problems, according to teacher Rene Poinsette.
All the classes write book reports and short essays that Poinsette corrects and reviews with students individualy. The other children have written emotion-packed essays on friends, Richard Pryor's accident and the recent release of Iranian hostage Richard Queen.
"Michelle, I like what you said, but I don't like the way you said it," said Poinsette, leaning over one girl. "I feel not so good?' Is that good grammar? Does it sound right to you when you say it out loud?
"That isn't a sentence; you need a comma here," she continued with another student.
Poinsette, a District of Columbia schoolteacher who lost her job in the recent layoffs, has students concentrate on their weak skills for part of each period. One pupil is mastering punctuation, another wants to learn correct usage of conjuctions and another an articulate A-average student, is writing a play.
"These kids have a lot on the ball," said Poinsette, "They don't have behavior problems."
"Their backgrounds aren't that much different from mine when I was growing up," she said. "I understand their needs and can zero in on their educational problems, which are usually due to social conditions."
Children also work on art projects every day and eat a free meal before they're dismissed. On Fridays, the children swim at the YMCA and take turns participating in a weekly prayer service.
At least once during the seven-week program, a group of eight to 10 students is treated to an overnight camping trip along Skyline Drive.
"A lot of them have never been out of the city," said Leon Hyerly, 22, an Eastern Mennonite College intern who leads the expeditions. "One of the big problems is parents who don't allow their kids to go because they're unfamiliar with the woods," Hyerly.
"One girl's grandmother forbade her to go because (she said) there are rapists in the woods," he laughed. That's ridiculouse, the rapists are in the city!"
Hyerly has been doing neighborhood social work for the church since September. He recruited many of the youngsters for the summer program as well as those who attend the church's year-round tutorial program.
"I've seen a lot of progression over the year," he said, "especially in social behavior and family relations."
Jeanette Felton, principal of Thomson Elementary School near the church, said roughly half of the children who make up the summer program come from her school. "The program has made a tremendous difference" in the children, she said, "I've noticed in the fall that those who've attended the enrichment program have a more positive attitude toward learning and a more positive attitude toward each other."