Making summer school relevant
FRONT, MARGARITA BARON, 14, and Yaritza Cazorla, 14, solve binominal problems using algebra tiles while Emily Caleillo, 14 gets help from teacher Jorge Reis.
Summer school is no longer the dreaded bore it once was for many Sonoma Valley students, thanks to Lyndsey Munn and Andrew Ryan, both teachers at local middle schools. Educating and entertaining 81 eighth graders and 93 fifth graders was no easy task, but it was accomplished this summer through a mixture of field trips and relatable classroom lessons.
The goal of the program was to engage students in the classroom as well as provide a preview of the next grade level's curriculum. Munn, a social studies teacher at Adele Harrison Middle School, explained, "We had the eighth-grade teachers collaborate with the ninth-grade teachers and figure out what three or four big ideas the kids should be really comfortable with in order to succeed when they get to the high school."
The beginning of high school is now more important than ever, due to the A-G requirements instituted by the Sonoma Valley Unified School District for incoming freshman, which state that in order to graduate, every student must pass the courses that meet University of California and California State University systems requirements.
Ryan said, "With these kids being the first to go through high school with the A-G requirements, this program really opens their eyes to their options and allows them to see different careers they could pursue."
The standout facet of the program is the variety of off-campus trips offered to students, coordinated by Ryan, a physical education teacher at Altimira Middle School. Fifth graders traveled to Point Reyes, Sugarloaf State Park, the Rosacrucian Egyptian Museum and the Technology Museum in San Jose. They also spent a day in Chinatown, where they toured the Asian Art Museum and ate lunch at Lichee Garden, a Chinatown restaurant. Eighth graders traveled to Angel Island, Santa Rosa Junior College, the Exploratorium in San Francisco, UC Davis, Sacramento State University, the California State Capitol and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.
Both grades also had the opportunity to participate in "Challenge Day," a modified ropes course, in hopes of creating a fun group experience.
The Youth Initiative of Sonoma Valley Fund sponsored all of these outings and experiences, for which students and educators alike are extremely grateful.
Munn coordinated the summer school program directed at fifth graders entering middle school and eighth graders entering high school. Fifth graders attended school from June 10 to July 1, while eighth graders attended from June 10 to July 15. The eighth graders spent the last two weeks of the program studying on and becoming acquainted with the Sonoma Valley High School campus. All students attended school from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday, where they took language arts, math, social studies, computers and physical education. Fifth graders also had the opportunity to rotate through a gardening class.
Though Munn and Ryan ran the program, Adele Principal Karla Conroy spearheaded the idea.
Munn said, "Karla Conroy worked on making the summer school experience a positive one. In the past, summer school has been focused around reviewing what was learned the previous year, but she wanted to help the students get more of a head start for next year instead."
Michael Seelye, a soon-to-be freshman and participant in the summer program, revealed that he liked the program because it "wasn't like normal summer school. Normal summer school is forced, and this was optional, plus it had field trips. At first I thought it might be lame, but it's turned out to be really fun." He added, "My favorite part was the field trips, especially the one to Angel Island, because I'm a history freak."
Patricia Solorio, also entering high school in the fall, said that she feels prepared because of the program. "To tell you the truth, I was scared of high school at first, but after seeing the campus and getting help in math and language arts, I feel ready," she said. She also found the trip to Angel Island a worthy experience. "I loved that we got to take the ferry there," she said. "The entire program was really fun. I enjoyed it."
Both Seelye and Solorio agreed that the high school interns who assisted with the program were enormously helpful. Seelye added, "They were always willing to answer our questions."
Students in the fifth grade took a survey about their experience in the program, which revealed that 93 percent said they feel more prepared for middle school because of the program. The majority of the students had never been to the locations they traveled to on the study trips. Roughly 85 to 90 percent of the students reported that they benefited from each trip.
According to Munn, during the 2010-11 school year, teachers reported that students who were part of the summer school program in 2010 drew from their experiences on the study trips in the classroom. Students wrote about the trips they took and were excited to learn about Ancient Egypt, for example, because of their trip to the Rosacrucian Museum.
Though it is only in its second year, the success of the revised summer school program thus far indicates it is here to stay as an option to help students transition into their next stage of education.
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I-T intern Jamie Ballard will be entering her junior year at Sonoma Valley High School in August.