GMR students get hands-on learning summer opportunity
Have you seen anyone form a 3-D, off the ground circle using a stack of Pringles chips? Several Greenbush-Middle River students successfully did so. They also had the opportunity to complete challenges like this and participate in other hands-on activities as part of the GMR Summer School program that ran in June and July.
The GMR School provided this summer opportunity through COVID dollars. The summer school program ran June 14 to July 26, including three Mondays in June and three Mondays in July from 8 am to noon.
“We wanted it to be sustainable,” said Robin Waage, one of the program’s teachers. “We wanted it throughout the summer thinking that that would just stretch out the learning (and) keep kids active all summer.
Supported by administration, the summer school teachers decided between providing academic-based and supplemental learning or more “fun” learning that involved more hands-on and critical thinking learning. Given the district was providing this program six times during the summer, they elected to go with the latter: the “fun” option.
“I was excited in the making it fun for kids,” Waage said. “The whole school year, we wanted to do a lot of outdoors (activities).”
Besides those six sessions over June and July, the GMR Summer School program also hosted a pair of extra events. The first was a water event during that Fourth of July weekend that included minnow races, tadpoles, water ballons, and various water activities. The second one, a music in the park event during a Thursday in July involved hand-made instruments and a visit by some princesses.
“We tried to make it just another thing for kids to come to in the community,” Waage said about these extra events, “but broaden the range of kids that could come.
Besides Waage, who taught third to fifth grade students in the program, Brittany Burkel (kindergarten and first), Emily Sorenson (second grade), and Lynn Balstad (preschool) taught the other levels of students. Trina Gust, Meghan Kvien, Payton Waage, Karla Davy, Mona Novacek, and Lynsi Emery provided some extra helping hands.
During the school year, Sorenson worked in the preschool room, and when asked by Waage and Burkel to assist with summer school, she said, “I was more than willing to work with these wonderful ladies.”
Together, these individuals led a group of 45 to 50 students. The program opened to preschool to sixth grade students; the program didn’t have any sixth grade participants.
The program provided snacks and lunch, but not transportation. Waage said parents made the effort to get their students to summer school.
Waage explained how all the program’s teachers were on board with providing outdoor classrooms.
“We just thought it could be a little experiment on teaching kids in a different way than just the traditional classroom,” Waage said, “so that was kind of fun… just to extend the learning. I feel like that summer gap sometimes can be big.”
Working under a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) theme, the program provided various STEM-related challenges and focused mainly on science, but also worked on other subjects, such as reading and math. They had hands-on manipulatives, including a STEM supply closet with tin foil, popsicle sticks, straws, twine, and various recyclable things.
“Summer school was fun, working with the preschoolers using developmentally appropriate STEM activities to build on their math and science skills,” Balstad said, “along with literacy activities to help connect all the concepts. The children had fun creating while learning.”
To see the complete story, read the August 4 issue of The Tribune in print or online.