Summer academy helps children maintain skills
“I went walking on the beach. I saw a shark walking by me,” teacher and students read aloud the first lines of a poem as Sauter pointed to each word.
Wait a minute, the teacher said, pretending she’d just noticed something not quite right. “Can sharks walk?” she asked the students. “Should we choose a different animal?”
Laughing at the image of a shark strolling along the sand, the children point to several more appropriate nouns. Turtle. Seagull. Crab.
Crab! That’s what they want.
“I saw a crab, walking by me,” they read proudly and loudly, and continued as Sauter pointed to each word in the next line. “I went swimming in the sea. I saw a BLANK swimming by me.”
“Jellyfish!” the students chorus, choosing one of the words from the list of creatures that swim.
The lesson — about reading, word choice, word meaning — looked just like it was part of the regular school year.
But it wasn’t. Three weeks after the school year ended, it was part of a new summer program designed specifically to help children retain their skills and get ready for the start of classes in September.
The Archimedes Summer Academy, created by a group of local parents and educators, opened its doors July 1. Its first session will run through July 24 and its second from July 29 to Aug. 21.
The four-week sessions are geared toward students who will be entering kindergarten or first grade in the fall. Sauter teaches both levels.
She has two assistants. One of them, Kayla Stevenson, is a McMinnville High School student in the education pathway.
Classes meet Monday and Wednesday mornings at the Michael Eichman Head Start building in downtown McMinnville. Sauter said they’re lucky to be able to use the Head Start building, as it features large, well-equipped classrooms and a playground that offers multiple activities for young children.
Sauter is a teacher in the McMinnville School District. She taught third grade at Sue Buel Elementary last year and has taught kindergarten in the past.
She said she took the Archimedes Academy assignment because she knows the value of retaining skills over the summer break. “The objective is avoiding regression, keeping skills and routines up, social skills as well as academics,” she said.
She said her summer students will work on a variety of literacy skills, such as decoding words and constructing sentences; math skills such as counting, place values and adding and subtracting; and outdoor science experiences, such as blowing bubbles. All the academic lessons will be taught using a beach theme.
“We want to keep the experiences meaningful and engaging and fun,” she said.
In addition to math, reading and plenty of language enrichment, the Archimedes classes include lessons about classroom behavior. Students must raise their hands, take turns, listen quietly to the teacher and get into line to walk — walk! — to the playground, for instance. Sauter will read books aloud to the children, keeping with the beach theme, and the instructors ask questions to spur social conversation.
“Who has gone to the beach this summer? Who has been in their lifetime? Who has seen a crab at the beach?” Stevenson asked students during snack time.
Each question generated several raised hands and numerous stories. “I saw a hermit crab at my old school!” one girl said. “I had a tiny crab as a pet,” said another. “I went to the aquarium and I saw a crab,” a boy said, prompting a flurry of stories about more trips to aquariums.
Just like regular school.