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Summer programs ignite passion for learning

Summer Scholars JaphetMore than 9,000 students entering kindergarten through 12th grade registered for summer programs to enrich their development in reading, STEAM subjects, Career and Technical Education, fine arts, athletics, and ready them for the next year of school. 


Housed at 15 elementary school hubs, four middle school hubs, and at all the comprehensive high schools, the summer programming offered students the opportunity to meet new people while they gained valuable skills to prepare them for their futures.


The elementary program, named Summer Scholars, had about 150 to 200 students at each site. The program featured Scholastic Lit Camp curriculum, math with STEAM, digital learning with high-interest technology projects, and field trips.


“Both students and teachers enjoyed the Scholastic literature camp,” Laura Arcos, summer school coordinator at Highland Park Elementary, said. “It was informative and had a lot of great resources with a variety of genres. Students were able to go home with lots of books to read over the summer.”


At Woodlawn Elementary, the biggest hits were the science and STEM activities. 


“The activities that students seem to enjoy the most were the science and STEM activities and challenges such as building rockets, creating boats that could float out of different materials, and creating the tallest possible free-standing structure,” Adrian Moreno, site administrator, said. 


Across all sites, students at different grade levels took educational field trips to venues including the Botanical Gardens, First Tee Golf, Natural Bridge Caverns, McNay Art Museum, and even to swim at the YMCA. 


“The field trips have been a main attraction for our students,” Destinie Uriegas, summer learning site coordinator at Woodlawn Academy, said. “The field trips have been so exciting — they are free, educational, and fun!”


At the middle school level, entering sixth grade students were invited to attend the New Beginnings program, which was designed to engage students in high interest reading, math with STEAM integration, and Career and Technical Education programs.


“Having engaging STEM activities enriches the learning programs because it provides a more varied curriculum for students already interested in STEM and provides exposure to students who may not realize that STEM can be for anyone,” teacher Annette Wong said. 


As part of the three-week program, students had more than 11 hours of training in drones, including drone safety. More than 150 students across the district passed the Federal Aviation Administration’s TRUST exam, or The Recreational UAS Safety Test. 


“My students loved learning about drones,” Wong said. “The students were eager to learn how to code and fly drones because first, it’s just fun, and second, because they learned that these skills can directly transfer into a real career.”


Students from across the district also had guest speakers from the United States Air Force and Alamo Airborne visited with them to discuss career connections.


Rising seventh and eighth graders attended the Path Finders program, which offered similar programming to New Beginnings, with additional CTE components exploring engineering, health science, audio visuals, information technology, and business.


One of the big programming components for this group was Esports education, using Network of Academic and Scholastic Esports Federations (NASEF) curriculum and guest speakers. The curriculum culminated in a trip to the new esix Game Arena at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, where students were exposed to career opportunities in event planning, entrepreneurship and audio/visual technology.


“Bringing industry experiences to the classroom enhances students’ understanding of career connections in areas like drones and Esports,” Anna Olguin, STEM Coordinator, said. “It also allows an opportunity for dialogue with experts in the field."


While the main summer programs for elementary and middle school students concluded June 30, summer learning continues in July for athletics, fine arts, P-TECH, and both credit recovery and initial credit for high school students. The goal of all the programs is similar: to make sure all students, of every level, have a jump start on next year. 


"These students will go into the new school year with confidence and less anxiety because they know what to expect,” Uriegas said. “Our students will start the year feeling successful.”


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