Ten-year-old Bernard Stevenson paused for a moment, then looked toward the heavens, as if hoping the answer would fall in his lap.
"Don't guess this time. Think," said Kevin Anderson, who was acting as Stevenson's tutor in this morning math session. "You can get it. Take your time and think."
Stevenson got the answer correct and he and his buddy, 10-year-old Kareem Wilson, smiled for the remainder of the 45-minute session. "I know I won't forget the answers to these (problems)," he said.
That is what the tutors, instructors and administrators at the Basketball Reading Incentive Camp (BRIC) at H.D. Woodson High School are hoping. The seven-year-old summer program, sponsored and funded by the District government for boys and girls 10-13, is designed to reinforce math and reading skills. The campers also participate in basketball, swimming and tennis. The camp, which is free, closed Friday. More than 200 campers participated in the two sessions and another 155 teen-agers worked as tutors, coaches, counselors, clerks and performed a number of other duties.
Marcia Hillman, a math instructor, was one of a dozen or so certified D.C. public school teachers who worked in the program.
"There isn't much paper-and-pencil work so the kids don't look at this as a school setting totally," said Hillman, a first-grade teacher at Eaton Elementary. "We tested the kids, picked out their weak spots and worked on improving those areas. We do mostly 'hands-on' work so the kids can actually see what they are doing. They get involved easier and they build self-confidence."
Belva Simmons, a reading and English instructor in the program, said, "Many of the kids didn't want to come for the academics but they knew to participate in the athletics, they had to deal with the academics. Our youth workers benefited just as much as the campers. All of the kids have learned some academics."
Not to mention teamwork, sportsmanship, discipline and how to make friends.
"The camp is society in itself," said director Bob Headen, football coach at Woodson. "We want the kids to enjoy a sense of accomplishment and learn a responsibility for everyday life. And BRIC is a fun way for the kids to learn. We had educational field trips, brought in speakers and catered much of the sessions toward academics. I still don't think we did enough."
BRIC, which was founded by former Dunbar basketball coach Joe Dean Davidson, was structured in such a fun-oriented manner that most of the campers never thought of the 9 a.m.-3 p.m. sessions as regular school. Most of the classes were followed with athletic sessions in the morning and team games or competition was the focal point in the afternoon.
"I've worked in the program six years and I know the kids don't mind the 9-to-3 school-type atmosphere because it's run efficiently and they enjoy the variety," said Donna Hawkins, who attends Howard University.
One parent, Helen Gates, has been so impressed with BRIC she has acted as an unofficial recruiter. "The program has really helped my daughter. She is enthusiastic about it, and her skills in sports and academics have improved in that short period of time," Gates said. "The speakers have been very informative and the BRIC people show a lot of concern."
Gates' 10-year-old daughter Latethea said she would "rather be here working on my reading and math than sitting home watching TV. It's fun and I don't mind staying all day. I've learned a lot of things."
In the swimming classes, instructor Bruce Bradford said of the 105 campers in the second session, 51 would receive a beginning swimming certificate.
"We had 20 or so who had no desire to learn to swim," said Bradford. "One boy wouldn't put his toe in the water. Now we can't keep him out. Everyone gets in the water."
In the afternoons, the campers compete against one another in sports. On this afternoon, there is full-court basketball and team Shakelee Express is having problems with Duncan Hines, whose coach is Ballou standout Jamie Hines.
Headed for Laredo Junior College, the 6-foot-1 Hines astounded onlookers the past few months with his amazing vertical leap as he won two dunking contests. Thus the team name, Duncan Hines.
"I don't stress winning and losing but these kids are very competitive," Hines said. "I want them to learn the skills and show some teamwork and discipline on the court."