RANCHESTER — Although the last day of the academic school year has passed, for many area students, learning opportunities will continue throughout the summer.
Both Sheridan County School District 1 and 2 schools are offering a variety of programs and activities designed to keep kids learning through the summer, without the pressure of homework, tests and grades.
At Tongue River Elementary, Principal Deb Hofmeier said a full slate of activities is planned that will incorporate educational and physical challenges.
“What we are finding is that the kids who are coming in with us all summer are coming in and ready to go at the start of the next school year,” Hofmeier said. “Any time they are doing math and reading and science, it is a good thing.”
Hofmeier said the school’s summer learning program is broken down into two-week increments, with a different theme or set of activities for each increment. She explained that students who need remedial work will meet in the mornings, then those students and all others who wish to participate, will gather in the afternoons for programs.
The first program will feature topics related to science, technology, engineering, art and math. Activities will include computer coding, building cars and robots, cooking class and getting some outside time in the community garden, a perennial favorite with the students.
The second program will feature outdoor activities such as kayaking at Kleenburn Ponds, playing regular or Frisbee golf and more time in the garden.
July will feature the beginning of the summer reading club which will focus on maintaining and building reading levels for each student, punctuated with trips to the Dayton pool.
In August, students will get to participate in a week-long history camp focusing on the theme of this year’s program, railroads. Students will learn about the history of railroads in our area, meet with the local model train group to learn about how they make model train sets and will culminate with a trip to Keystone, South Dakota, for a trip on the 1880s train that travels between Keystone and Hill City.
At the end of August, the last program will be held at Pine Island. Students will participate in many outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking, as well as stay overnight in tents and enjoy time around the campfire with songs, stories and a talent show.
The programs are free for all TRE students in kindergarten through fifth grades, thanks to a grant from the state and through the generosity of a local donor who sponsors the history and outdoor camps.
“Our goal for it is we don’t want to have the summer slide that we usually have,” Hofmeier said. “If kids sit in front of a TV or gaming screen all summer, they don’t come back very prepared for the next school year, so we have to do a lot of catch up work. But we also want to expose them to things they wouldn’t get to do on a regular basis. These are just nice opportunities for them to enrich their world.”
Students at Henry A. Coffeen School are also being provided with several fun learning activities this summer, thanks to the dedication of some teachers who will continue meeting with students through the summer break.
“For our kindergarten to second-grade kids we have a program in which they come to the school once a week and meet with teachers to do some reading groups and get on the computers and have activities on the computer that are on their level,” Principal Nikki Trahan said, noting that the school’s library will sometimes be opened during this time for kids to check out books.
Trahan said teachers will also travel to students’ homes during the summer with a backpack activity. The educational activities are meant to be done with parents during the week and then exchanged the following week for a new activity.
Beginning in July, Trahan said the school is starting a new program focused on reading.
“We are piloting a new program this summer for third through fifth grade called Summer Sun and Fun reading club,” she said. “What we are trying to do is spark that love of reading and finding some authors they are interested in. We’ll meet once a week, at a park close to home so they can walk to it. They can pick what book they want and they will meet once a week until they are done. Then they will have a fun activity, pizza and movie night at the park.
“It is just to keep them interested in learning and help them understand learning will be throughout their life, not just for nine months,” she continued. “It keeps their skills so when they come back to us (the next school year), we aren’t starting from three months back. It is also about building relationships. We truly believe that the better relationships we have with kids, the more effort they will give.”
Hofmeier and Trahan said most schools in the area are sponsoring various sorts of summer learning opportunities and parents should contact their child’s school to find out what offerings are available.