Sarah Creveling Conducts 46th Summer of S.H.I.P.

  • Former Mountain Brook Schools kindergarten teacher, Sarah Creveling, has been a part of the summer learning initiative since its inception.

  • Since 1974, S.H.I.P. (Summer Happiness in Play), Mountain Brook Community Educations’s longest-running program, has provided a place for Mountain Brook 4 through 7-year-olds to learn, be engaged and have some fun. Former Mountain Brook Schools kindergarten teacher, Sarah Creveling, has been a part of the summer learning initiative every single year.

    “The goal is first and foremost for the kids to have fun,” Creveling said. “And that’s done through a variety of ways.”

    During two different week-long sessions in June, children come to Crestline Elementary School for three hours a day to play games, create crafts, enhance their creativity, hear fun and interactive stories and much more. Each summer there is a theme for S.H.I.P. and it always pertains to something “ocean-related.” This summer Creveling took her sailors aboard S.H.I.P.’s boat, the “SS Happiness” and set sail for Mobile Bay.

    All week long, camp participants learned about birds and fish in the Mobile Bay area. Crafts included drawing pelicans and snacks included goldfish to symbolize the types of fish in the southern Alabama waters. Rainbow cookies are a staple of S.H.I.P. and campers have enjoyed them for 46 summers.


    Creveling retired from teaching kindergarten at Crestline in 2000. Her husband’s work as a probate lawyer for the American Cancer Society took them to Atlanta and later Oklahoma. But the moves didn’t slow her from returning to Mountain Brook each summer for S.H.I.P.

    “I thought it was important to come back and be a part of it, even when I was away,” Creveling said. “Plus, it is just so much fun.”

    In the 1970s, Creveling was sent by the Junior League of Birmingham to a conference in San Antonio. It was there where she learned about “SAIL” (Summer Adventure in Learning). SAIL was put on by a group of teachers who shared their experiences at the conference.

    Down the road back in Birmingham, Creveling was driving around the city with her friend Lucia Chambers. As they came through the Forest Park area, they found a toy ship that was a sandbox. The two friends asked the owner to buy it and to their surprise, the ship was not being used. So they took it away and created the summer program, S.H.I.P. They partnered with Jim Felton, who was the head of Mountain Brook Community Education at the time.

    The toy ship was housed at Brookwood Forest and then transferred to the location for the summer kids camp. S.H.I.P. began at the old Girl Scout House (formerly next to Crestline Field and the former home of MB Community Ed.) and was there for two years before moving to Mountain Brook Elementary for the next 18 years. In the following years, S.H.I.P. was held at different elementary schools in the summertime.

    All the while, Creveling was a kindergarten teacher at Crestline until her retirement. Chambers became the Mountain Brook Children’s Librarian at O’Neal Library. The two directed the program and others came in to help throughout the years. Peggy Pate, Sally Baker, Rebecca Stivender, Edna Rush, Kaye Merritt, Connie Reich and Beth Otto all have contributed to the success of the program as well.


    The number of children who have been impacted by S.H.I.P. over the years is too high to count but as the old saying says, “what goes around, comes around.” Creveling has had the opportunity to teach children and even some of those children’s parents through S.H.I.P.

    COVID-19 put a halt on the program in 2020 but it was all aboard for 2021 as Sarah Creveling and her crew continued to make a positive impact for children in the Mountain Brook community.