About 150 students have walked through the halls of Horace Mann Elementary School this June.
The first through fifth graders from Horace Mann and Jefferson Elementary are attending the “Super Powerful Sharp Kids Summer STEM Program” sponsored by Shawnee Public Schools. The vent began June 4 and runs through June 29.
Between 8 a.m. and noon, the students are fed breakfast and lunch, and are taught science and critical thinking.
“It keeps them involved — the kids want to be here,” said Tammy Keller, the program coordinator for Horace Mann. “They’re still reading, they’re still getting math, but a lot of it is through science.”
Keller works with Melanne Greenwood, the coordinator for Jefferson Elementary, and teachers to help make the summer camp possible.
This is the second year the camp is being offered to Horace Mann and Jefferson students. The camp is funded through the 21st Century Community Learning Center federal grant, a competitive grant. Once awarded, the schools chosen keep the grant for about three years. After that, they have two more years of some funding, but not as much as the original amount.
“It’s a hard grant to get,” Greenwood said. “You get extra points if you have low performing schools, if you have a lot of at-risk students.”
Students attend the camp for free, but there’s only so much room. Keller said they try to keep classrooms to about 24 students per teacher, and each teacher has a teaching assistant. Enrollment for the camp usually opens at the end of April or beginning of May.
Teachers are for the camp are required to apply and create lesson plans. Greenwood said she usually receives more applications for the positions than she has room for, so a lot of qualified teachers end up being teaching assistants.
“They enjoy it, not only just for the money, but it’s a win-win for them, so we never have trouble with staffing,” Greenwood said.
This summer, the camp runs Monday through Friday to allow a day for field trips or a guest speaker, which are paid for through the grant. Some places the students may go include the Sam Noble Museum at OU and Science Museum Oklahoma in the city.
Students are also introduced to a variety of ideas and technology. They are required to plan their experiments, build their ideas, record what works and what doesn’t, and then adjust what needs to be changed. Keller said the program helps explore parts of science teachers don’t have time to cover during the school year.
“It’s not like a regular school day. They’re not under any pressure, they’re getting to use what they know and they’re getting to use what they don’t even know they know,” Keller said. “They come in my office everyday with their stuff because they want to show it to me. They want me to take pictures of it. We have a bulletin board out here, so they want their pictures. They’re proud of it. I love it, absolutely love it.”
Keller said as long as the grant is available, Horace Mann and Jefferson will continue to apply and offer the summer program.