WSD Summer School Offered Robust Learning Opportunities

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Washougal School District was sizzling with learning this summer.  Students, teachers, and staff took part in a variety of educational programs designed to help those who may be struggling, prepare young learners for entry into school, help avoid summer learning loss for special needs students and provide an educational challenge for those looking to participate in project-based learning (PBL) activities.

This year’s summer learning was expanded with support from Federal ESSR funding, allowing WSD to serve nearly three times as many students as would be in a normal summer.   The district served 106 students in 2019 and this summer 319 were provided educational opportunities.

“Our Brain Boot Camp was new this year and provided an exciting opportunity for students to explore their learning through real-world PBL lessons,” said Heather Kassel, Brain Boot Camp Administrator.  “The camps were offered to middle school students, grades six through eighth, and in August, fifth grade students joined.”

Kassel and Cheryl MacIntyre were awarded a grant from OSPI that funded the planning of these summer lessons to revolve around creating a mock proposal for a walking bridge concept to connect Addy Street residents over the train tracks to be closer to schools and trails.

“In June, before school was let out, we worked on creating plans for students along with six other teachers spanning all grades and content areas,” said Kassel. “During this summer learning the students have researched, set their own goals, created a narrative, set a budget, learn bridge building code rules and techniques and create a mock proposal.”

As a part of their work students interviewed grant writers WSD Assistant Superintendent Renae McMurray, WSD Special Education Director Penny Andrews, and Unite Washougal Coalition’s Margaret McCarthy, asked questions of City of Washougal Mayor Molly Coston, and Tim Tipton and Oscar Fuentes, both engineers at Snohomish County, WA.

“The engineer interviews were a huge success for my students,” said teacher Sydney Loveland. “They worked hard to come up with well thought out questions and prioritize the most important questions as a group. Each student asked the engineers at least two questions and then they wrote down the engineers’ responses to their questions. They even crafted insightful follow up questions to the answers they were given. I was very impressed!”

Students are currently creating a bridge design with correct specifications on weight and measurements in a Math/Science PBL class. Then, in an English Language Arts class, students are writing a grant proposal for the culminating project.

“I love the chance to explore various building techniques,” said Jocelyn Guajardo, incoming 8th grader at Canyon Creek Middle School who hopes to someday be an architect like her uncle.  “The idea of structures fascinates me!”

“This has been fun, and I love engineering,” admits Brycen Murray, incoming freshman at Washougal High School. “I am no longer mad at my mom for sending me to summer school,” he added with a smile.

Brain Boot Camp at the elementary level provided students with a review of their current grade and an enrichment for their upcoming grade. “Students were provided with activities that enhanced and accelerated their individual needs,” said Kassel. “We had varying levels of abilities for every grade.  This program was not limited and anyone that wanted more learning was allowed to join the sessions.”

“The Extended School Year (ESY) program was offered to students who currently receive special education services and are likely to experience summer learning loss,” explained Andrews.  “The Recovery Services sessions supported students in working on their individualized educational goals. This program offers small group support with special education teachers and paraeducators.  In response to COVID school closures, two sessions of Recovery services were offered this year during June and August to any student receiving special education services.”

The Summer School Splash, for grades K-3 and Ready Set Kindy was held in July “Summer School Splash was literacy focused for students that are a part of the learning assistant program and the Title I program,” said Summer Splash Administrator Cindy Coons.  Ready, Set, Kindy was geared toward the incoming Kindergarten students to give them a head start to their upcoming school year.

“Parents have said they are grateful to have this opportunity for their kids and that their children have looked forward to coming to summer school,” said Cynthia Fahrenkrug, summer school Secretary.  “Many have been very enthusiastic to see their friends and to engage with our educators.”

Paraeducator Melissa MacLardy shared her joy at witnessing a student’s “aha moment” in learning multiplication. “He told me he could never do it before but now multiplication is easy,” she said.

“I have been extremely happy to be a part of this awesome summer learning experience,” said Kassel. “I am super proud of all the hard work the staff and students have done.  The students have gained skills over the summer months that will be beneficial for a successful start to the school year.  The teachers are dedicated to student success, and this is why our summer has been amazing.”

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