Summer Learning for THINK Togther students at Harriet Eddy Middle School in Elk Grove begins every morning with a team building exercise. It’s now the third week of program and our student leaders take charge of their small-group team and lead them through chants and fast paced activities to get everyone’s blood pumping. A supportive web of teachers, administrators and THINK staff work hard to facilitate these and other activities that build a nurturing, collaborative culture. The team spirit carries throughout the day as kids work together on various projects they have selected based on their interests (arts club, robotics lab, life science). It feels like summer camp when students gather to hold announcements and set their collective goals for a day and week of outdoor fun and experiential learning.
A successful transition to middle school has been identified as a predictor of future academic achievement. For many of the students we serve, the middle school years are filled with anything but positive experiences; school safety, discipline and behavioral issues present serious impediments to learning. The Search Institute has identified 40 developmental assets that adolescents need to grow up healthy and become caring, responsible adults. These building blocks include connections to caring adults outside the family, engagement with learning opportunities outside the school, self-esteem and a sense of belonging to your school and or community.
THINK Together’s summer program helps keep middle school youth engaged in their education at a time when many students are beginning to disengage from school. With the use tools and curriculum such as Fulcrum C.R.A.T.E. our staff have been trained to empower students, enhance their confidence and build math, literacy and leadership skills. Throughout the day, they provide developmentally appropriate activities and incentives and build peer-leadership opportunities. At Harriet, one group of students took the lead in organizing a contest to see which team can learn the most words in the academic vocabulary list.
At the end of the first week, over 500 Elk Grove students visited the San Francisco Exploratorium, one of 3 field trips sites our students will visit this summer. The Exploratorium, located in the historic Palace of Fine Arts, includes a wide range of hands-on exhibits relating to biology, physics, listening, cognition, and visual perception. The field trip experience complemented the classroom-related learning activities and just as importantly, gave students the opportunity to engage first-hand with an important cultural asset in their community.