Students flourish in Park City summer school program | ParkRecord.com

Students flourish in Park City summer school program

Lessons aim to expose them to new challenges

Park City may have offer a litany of summertime activities, but this time of year isn't just for fun in the sun.

For many elementary school-aged students in town, the summer is also for learning. The Park City School District's summer school program, which started last month and runs through July 26, is aiming to give students a boost as they enter the 2017-2018 school year.

Sherry Barski, an administrative intern who is helping run the summer school as part of her Master's degree program, said engaging young minds throughout the summer can pay big dividends when they show up to class in August.

"It keeps the kids fresh," said Barski, who is also an interventionist at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School during the school year. "It keeps learning at the forefront — not in a heavy way, but in a fun, exploratory way."

The program's mission is particularly important because many of the children who attend are new English learners. By focusing on literacy and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts throughout the summer, the program exposes the students to the language and also fosters collaboration. The skills are critical for the students to learn when they're young and will translate throughout their educational careers, Barski said.

"Every minute counts," she said. "We have to be intentional with every minute and every opportunity that we give them. We have to model for them how they can be learners."

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Many of the concepts the program teaches are similar to what the students learn in the school year. But they're packaged a little differently, Barski said, in order to make them explore and experiment. Lessons are designed to be interactive and to push students to engage — both with the subject matter and with one another.

"There's a stigma that because they don't have the language they can be a little bit more shy about (learning)," she said. "I have not seen a shy child here this summer. They have been all engaged and having fun and talking. And they come back every day. I think it builds their confidence in learning English and working with others."

One of the most important things the students will learn about this summer is failure — or rather how to overcome it. Barski said many of the lessons require hands-on trial and error, meaning the students will invariably get it wrong. And when they do, instructors encourage them to try again.

"It's a lot of perseverance through things that maybe they had never been exposed to," she said. "They have an opportunity to practice that in a very safe environment. That's huge for kids, to be able to go, 'You know what? I may not know how to do it yet, but I will.' The teachers and staff here will support them until they do."

By the end of the summer, the students will be ready to jump right into the school year, Barski said. They may also be prepared for a lot more than that. The focus on STEM could be laying the groundwork for some of the students to eventually pursue careers in STEM fields. Barski said the program is helping many of them discover strengths that they didn't realize they had.

"We're trying to get kids college and career ready," she said. "Exposing them as much as we can to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics that we can just gives them an edge over other kids in other districts. We are being intentional in providing those opportunities."

Barski added that the program wouldn't be possible without the support of Holy Cross Ministries, which provides several volunteer mentors who work with the students throughout the summer.

"It's such a joint effort," she said. "It's almost seamless — where there's a need, the other entity has been able to step in and support. … I'm just impressed at the caliber of people they have partnering with us. They want the kids to be as successful as we do."