Learning thrives during Pinewood summer

School ended for the spring on May 31, and the first day for fall classes won’t come until Sept. 4, but learning has continued through the summer at Pinewood Elementary School. The weeks from mid-June to late July were particularly active.
Besides the special education Extended School Year program, and Targeted Services for math and reading in July – which was open to students from all homes but “we invite who we think would benefit from a little extra help,” said Principal Brad Sanderson – Pinewood opened “Education City” for six hours over four Tuesdays for children entering first and second grades this fall. Students entering third through fifth grades could visit the “City” for the same amount of time over four Thursdays. Education City closed for the summer after a morning session July 19.
Following a curriculum that the school engages for all students through the regular year, each 90-minute summer session in the “City” included time for students to work on computer math games. They also had morning library visits that at times involved literature, speech and drama, Sanderson said – “We’re getting kids used to using language.”

Technology specialist Becky Schmitz guides students through a computer math program during an Education City session July 19 at Pinewood Elementary School.
Technology specialist Becky Schmitz guides students through a computer math program during an Education City session July 19 at Pinewood Elementary School.

Without a mid-summer review of concepts and even introductions to new lessons, the students otherwise go 13 weeks between their last spring and first fall days in the classroom. Sanderson said teachers can notice the sluggishness through the opening week or so in September. With these summer programs, “we’re trying to reduce the ‘summer slide,’ which is a well-known term in education,” he said. “We hope to reduce the loss of retention over the summer.” Minds can get “a little cold and mushy” if they don’t get exercise, he added.
The summer programs allow the students to exercise their bodies as well. The final day in “Education City” included a game of kickball outdoors.
Teachers who are regularly on staff at Pinewood – nine of them were back for the summer – lead and follow their students through the math, reading and recreation sessions (and even a snack break) in these programs.
“We have very ambitious staff who have really come forth, quality teachers who want to make a difference in the summer,” Sanderson said.
Participating teacher Ryan Nett, from the fifth-grade faculty, said he enjoys the time getting to know the next year’s students and the opportunity to give them a head start for the fall. Early in his summertime with the students, he’ll say, “ ‘Here’s what you need to know, and here’s what we’re going to do to get you there,’” he explained, adding, “You can see the students grow.”
Second-grade teacher Jenine Severson said that the summer students often are getting information in ways that is unique from methods used at other times. “(This format) gives us a chance to try different things that we might not in the school year,” she said.
She adds that maybe teachers can simply get homesick, or school-sick, just like students when enough time has passed away from school. She has worked with students this summer who are entering third grade, which means she got to know many of them for nine months through last May in her second-grade room. “I think when you stay connected, is always a good feeling,” she said. “You miss your kids when they’re gone.”

By Paul Rignell