Two weeks ago, Healdsburg Junior High held a summer school showcase for students and parents.
Encompassing grades first through seventh, the showcase allowed each class to present the projects they had been working on for the duration of the two week summer school session.
The students selected to participate in this session were those who ended the school year on the verge of being reclassified as English proficient.
In years past, this additional time had been utilized for further lessons in Accelerated English, but this year the teachers chose a different approach that focused instead on project based learning.
In particular, the emphasis was on STEM experiments; those rooted in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
First graders learned about the water cycle, and proudly shared their new knowledge of evaporation, condensation and precipitation with animated gestures as they gathered around their ziplock bags filled with water and affixed to the sunny window.
Second graders learned about the many types of engineers they could become, and built structures with materials ranging from straws and cups to toothpicks and marshmallows.
The student consensus on their favorite construction was the “puff mobiles,” which they lined up in the gym to race, by blowing the puff mobiles across the room on their bellies.
Third graders departed from STEM objectives and instead created their own books of poetry, complete with illustrations they enthusiastically shared with their classmates.
They learned to incorporate observations from all of their senses in their poetry, with one young lady composing an ode to pizza that was both humorous and spot-on.
Fourth graders learned about natural disasters and the different community members that participated in preparing for such emergencies. They then adopted one of these roles, and each filmed a video explaining how their role contributed to community readiness.
Fifth graders embarked on a trip to the Russian River, where they gathered water and created biofilters with rocks, sand and charcoal in order to produce clean drinking water.
They learned how each filter removed certain harmful elements and bacteria, and why it was important to go through each and every step before drinking their filtered water.
Finally, the sixth and seventh graders assembled two catapults from scrap wood, and learned the construction tips and release points necessary to make their catapults launch objects at the greatest speed and trajectory.
Students took turns launching and catching the balls they sent flying across the field, wowing the first graders who were invited to watch.
Each of the grades traveled to each others’ classrooms to share these projects and their favorite moments, and the afternoon felt more like the culmination of summer camp than summer school.
These students will now join their native English speaking peers in all of their core classes next year, and those who need or want additional accelerated English lessons will remain in summer school for an additional two weeks.
Partial funding for these programs was provided by the Healdsburg Education Foundation. To contribute, visit www.hefschools.com.
— Kira Ehrmann