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District 11's new K-8 summer school series seeks to 'ignite curiosity' in students

Posing for a photo are students in the first-week class of Jennifer Martinez' grades 3-5 "News Crew Enrichment" class for District 11's new Summer Enrichment Series at Chipeta Elementary. Twelve schools in all are offering SES classes, including Holmes and Jackson on the Westside.
Westside Pioneer photo
       Summer school in District 11 used to be mostly remedial.
       Now it's meant to be mostly renewing.
       Starting June 8 and continuing through June 26, classes in grades K-8 are being offered that teachers devised and students take because they want to.
       Called the Summer Enrichment Series (SES), the first-time session is being offered at 12 schools, including Holmes Middle and Bristol Elementary on the Westside. During the three-week time frame, preregistered students take any class for a week. Age ranges are broken out by K-2, 3-5 and 6-8. There is no fee.
       “Summer school [much of it for students who are behind] is still being offered at the high school level,” explained Linda Sanders, the D-11 staffer who's credited with leading the development of SES, “but K-8 is using it as an opportunity to provide a more relevant world for students, in self-selected classes. Maybe it will kind of ignite their curiosity.”
       One of the teachers in the program is elementary instructor Jennifer Martinez (also the wife of former West Elementary Principal Terry Martinez). Her class at Chipeta Elementary explores the media and how news is presented in the modern world.
       She expressed a concern that the more regimented school-year curriculum has the effect of lessening kids' sense of curiosity. “This program is giving kids the freedom to create,” she said.
       Here are some other classes, taken from the list of those at Bristol and Jackson:
       “Move Your Body, Move Your Imagination,” “Exploring Insects,” “Hand Prints & Happy Monsters,”
Students in Jessica Trovik's "Comic Book Project" class at Columbia Elementary show their work. (Note: The photo, provided by District 11, did not include names in the caption information.)
Courtesy of District 11
"All the World Is a Stage,” “Our United States,” “Crime Scene Investigation,” “Basic Sewing,” “Asteroid Impact,” “Design and Build” and “French - Exploring Language, Art & Cooking.”
       In planning the summer series, the goal was to focus on areas known as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) as well as on art, according to Jason TerHorst, D-11's assistant superintendent over instruction and curriculum. “Teachers were provided the opportunity to suggest courses,” he elaborated. “They were asked to be innovative, creative and have an inquiry-based context. A small committee evaluated the applications for meeting the criteria.”
       The final decisions on which SES classes would be offered were based on signups. “We began by discussing that we probably needed 10 students in a class,” TerHorst said. “I believe we only had two classes that were canceled due to low interest, and they were canceled because the teacher chose to cancel them. We called the parents of those students and made sure we got them enrolled in another opportunity. By the end of the registration period, I don't think we had any classes that didn't have at least 10 students.”
       Sanders also spoke to the aspect of reaching out to what she referred to as “urban kids” (those who might be disadvantaged and/or from less academic backgrounds). Studies have shown such children respond well to innovative-type teaching; plus, when kids stay in touch with education over the summer that “helps mitigate the gap from the end of one year to the beginning of another,” she said.
       No outside funding was involved in SES, other than the federally supported breakfast/lunch program. “This was a commitment on the part of our Board of Education and superintendent to meet the needs of kids over the summer months and provide a highly engaging opportunity to enjoy learning,” TerHorst said.
       Students in grades 9-12 needing remedial studies “have either the digital high school summer school or the Tesla High summer school,” said Devra Ashby, D-11 communications specialist. “These two programs are what you would call the traditional 'summer school' type of opportunities.”
       As for similar students in K-8, “they would need to seek outside tutoring or other outside options as D-11 does not currently hold summer school offerings for students in K-8,” she said.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 6/16/15; Schools: General)

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