07/08/13 — Learning the fun way

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Learning the fun way

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 8, 2013 1:46 PM

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Dr. Thomas Smith helps, from left, Jasmine Wiley, 9, Malik Jones, 10, and Amiah Blount, 10, stitch burlap squares with yarn to make flags in an arts and crafts summer class at Dillard Academy.

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Makel King, 7, uses his finger to get glue for the flag he is making out of construction paper at Dillard Academy.

Summer school just got a whole lot more fun.

Launched this past week, to commemorate Independence Day, 110 students at Dillard Academy charter school learned about the U.S. Bill of Rights, created their own version, made popsicle stick flags, made ice cream by hand and compared the process to using an electronic ice cream maker, and used multiplication to figure out how stars are arranged on the American flag.

The "Summer Loss Reduction Camp" is made possible through a School Improvement Grant, said Danielle Baptiste, director of operation support at the school.

From now until Aug. 6, rising kindergartners through fifth graders will be taking part in the 18-day program.

The theme-based camp gives students the opportunity to maintain their academic skills over the summer, while participating in a variety of fun and engaging activities, Ms. Baptiste said.

"It's academics for the specific purpose of reducing summer loss because we know that students lose some of their academic prowess during the summer months," she said.

In addition to classwork, students will also have the opportunity to work in the school's garden, which is currently producing corn, zucchini, sunflowers, herbs, tomatoes, peas and cabbage.

"We were planning to do a small garden team to do harvesting and go to the farmer's market (to sell items)," Ms. Baptiste explained. "They're all so excited, we'll probably just rotate the groups of students."

The enthusiasm for the summer school also spread among the teaching staff, the administrator said.

"What I'm super proud about is each content group is led by at least one highly qualified, certified teacher," she said. "This year, all of our teachers wanted to be involved in the program. We have nine working with the camp."

Lasseter Wooten, an exceptional children's teacher, has been at the school for six years. The summertime opportunity, though, allows both students and teachers to get more creative.

"I think one of the great things about us having a summer program like this is we set out to make it more fun and experiential," she said. "It's going to benefit them next year and beyond."

The potential for success is even greater because the teachers have the benefit of already having an established relationship with the students.

"It gives us ownership of their learning. It gives them ownership," she said. "That's what we want summer camp to be -- full of things that will teach them good skills, but they don't realize they're learning."

Kimberly Marcom, an English/language arts teacher who usually works with first-graders, was paired with Sandra Gaines, a preschool teacher. In addition to combining their efforts, they were mindful of the diversity of the student groups.

"We have to differentiate with the kids that we get because they're all different ages," Ms. Marcom said. "They're all getting the exposure, but we're having to base it on their level."

Fourth-graders Iyana Jones and Ranita Pearsall, both 9, said they had already absorbed a lot in just a few short days of camp.

"We learned about soil," Iyana said.

"We learned about how many arrays to multiply, we learned how many minerals in good and bad germs in our stomachs," Ranita said.

"We learned about pirates at the library," Iyana added.

"The different types of soil," Ranita said.

"But a worm likes the smooth soil the best," Iyana added.

The girls said they are also looking forward to field trips planned over the coming weeks -- to the movies, attending a Wilson Tobs baseball game, swimming at the YMCA.

And they even shared valuable lessons that aren't necessarily found in a textbook.

"We learned about being a buddy," Iyana said.

"That means treating people the way you want to be treated," her classmate said.

"Instead of being a bully, be a buddy," Iyana said.