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Students Dive into Six-Week Summer Program

Jamil Ortega

Right from the start, the students in this year’s expanded summer program dove into engaging activities. They learned about bears and ladybugs in one class, made trail mix in another and created a “Summer Bucket List” in still another.

“I like being here,” said Kayzea Miller, a rising third-grade student at Columbus Elementary School. “I like to learn new things.”

The educators like having them there. Students in the program are attending classes four days per week for six weeks rather than the traditional four. The aim is to recover from the difficulties in both academics and social-emotional development brought by the pandemic-era remote and hybrid learning.

“The small-group settings, focus on the fundamentals and hands-on activities will help make up for the lack of traditional education that everyone saw over the past year, and will help them transition to a full, robust educational program,” said Assistant Superintendent of School Improvement Dr. Waveline Bennett-Conroy.

Students in the K-6 program spend mornings focusing on the fundamentals -- math and English Language Arts – to prepare to meet grade-level standards in the upcoming school year. Afternoons are devoted to hands-on, inquiry-based projects in STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and math. In the coming weeks students in various classes will shoot off rockets they build, operate robots they assemble and stick their fingers into gooey slime that they create from household products.

The lessons will help prevent the COVID slide from being exacerbated by a summer slide.

“I really want math stuff because math can be confusing, but if I do it more and more, I get used to it,” said Jamil Ortega, a rising third-grade student at Lincoln Elementary School.

Columbus Teacher Margaret Prenderville's classroomCooking and meal preparation began the first day for Lincoln fifth-grade student Lynne Adjitin and her classmates, who made trail mix. After combining pretzels and dark chocolate, they sampled dried peaches to determine how many to include.

“Some of them didn’t like it, so we added only a little bit,” she said.

They continue to follow COVID-era precautions. They wear masks and sit at desks with clear plastic shields. But, as in pre-pandemic times, they sit in the same rooms, talk to their friends face to face, read books they hold in their hands and color drawings they made at their desks.

“This is a great time for them to normalize school again,” said teacher Lincoln School teacher Allison Smith. Her students drew and colored “Summer Bucket Lists” as one project.

The lessons are built on themes for greater relevance. In Columbus, for instance, third-grade students discuss the picture book Whoever You Are by Mem Fox, which celebrates diversity, said Principal Dr. Colleen Crawford. They tie in science by comparing fast food menus from around the world to determine which country has the healthiest choices, and music by exploring the African influence on Latin American beats and rhythms.