I’ve been out of school for a “few” years now, so I’ve really enjoyed the nostalgia of spending time on campuses since joining the Merced City School District team.
The timeless traditions, such as talent shows and graduation ceremonies, bring back fond memories of when I was a little girl with big dreams of being a doctor, reporter, singer and ice cream shop employee. While some things have stayed the same (including my sweet tooth), it’s also incredible to see how much has changed! That includes summer school.
I remember summer school as a place where students were sent to catch up if they struggled during the year, but now it’s for everyone who wants to extend their learning and have some fun along the way. The MCSD Summer Academy for Academic Achievement kicked off on June 13 at Reyes and Peterson elementary schools and Rivera Middle School and continues through July 8. It’s for students heading into third through eighth grades, with a special “Fast Track” program for English learners going into kindergarten, first or second.
I could tell from my visit on the first day that many of the children were truly excited to be there. During a welcome assembly, the youngest students at Reyes cheerfully chanted along with their principal, “Stop the summer slide!” Meanwhile, others already were in their classrooms engaged in interactive programs on their tablet computers and laptops as attentive teachers guided them through the lessons.
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The Summer Academy covers all subjects with a special focus on science, technology, engineering, the arts and math. That STEAM learning has become a crucial part of children’s education in the 21st century, and teachers and administrators are constantly striving to find new and improved ways to help students fully comprehend those subjects.
One unique opportunity at the Summer Academy is a series of “thematic engineering” lessons designed for each grade. The topics include magnetism, oil spills, solar energy, viruses and vertical farms. The students start with the basics and build on their knowledge each week, ultimately conducting experiments and creating their own models.
During one school visit, I saw sixth-graders in safety goggles testing water samples for pH values after a simulated oil spill. Meanwhile, fifth-graders were building solar-powered ovens to make s’mores and grilled cheese sandwiches.
It appears the word has spread about those Summer Academy opportunities because more than 1,300 students are attending this year.
In today’s competitive world, it’s great to see that learning truly can be fun and that students are enjoying education … even in the summer.
Sara Sandrik, an Emmy Award-winning former journalist, is the public information officer for the Merced City School District. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.