June 24, 2016

Child on Top of a Greenhouse

Unique experience improving literacy skills in children

Roethke-House-blog-picThousands of people pass by a neat, well-kept two-story white house with dark gray trim every day located at 1805 Gratiot Ave. in Saginaw without even a thought of its significance. Yet contained within its walls and spilling onto the grounds surrounding it, something remarkable is happening. 


The Friends of Theodore Roethke, a group dedicated to preserving the legacy and memory of Saginaw’s Pulitzer Prize winning poet, operates out of the former childhood home of the poet, the Theodore Roethke Home Museum. The group hosts a variety of programs throughout the year, but one program touches director Annie Ransford the most.


“This is some of the best work we do. It’s energizing, thrilling and fulfilling,” says Annie.


For the past five summers, the house has hosted its Child on Top of a Greenhouse language arts review camp. The camp, designed for students pre-K through early elementary, focuses on improving reading and writing skills while surrounded in the unique setting of Roethke’s historic home and grounds.



In its first year, the camp served seven students. Last summer, 60 students participated. The need became clear that a full-time summer camp director was needed. That’s when the Friends of Theodore Roethke turned to Saginaw Community Foundation for help. A grant awarded allowed for the hiring of a recent SVSU graduate to oversee the program. 


During the camp, students receive individual and small group tutoring with the use of a language arts workbook, learn about life in the 1920s, enjoy era-specific snacks, crafts and motor activities like jumping rope, playing jacks and dancing the Charleston. 


Parents and grandparents of the students often help by volunteering during the camp. A former Roethke family housekeeper, now in her 90s, has also volunteered her time baking treats for the students.


“We want to serve young children because when children feel good about themselves and their community, there is no end to what they can accomplish.”


Learn more

Visit the Theodore Roethke House Museum website.

Download a PDF of Community Threads – Saginaw Community Foundation 2015 Annual Report