Before launching a self-constructed rocket built from an empty 2-liter soda bottle, Brayden Richards also assessed how high the fun meter is taking part in summer learning activities through Evergreen Public Schools.
Just as high — and far — as his rocket launch, the incoming sixth-grader said.
“We get to do some cool stuff here,” Brayden said.
Cool stuff is just part of what students are experiencing at Camp Evergreen, the district’s optional summer school program. Following a year marred by COVID-19, Clark County’s largest district expanded offerings for all K-12 students with a focus on Social Emotional Learning and increasing students’ proficiency in critical standards for select subjects. High school students’ focus remains in credit recovery, but what’s changed is expanded programs for elementary students, and, for the first time, middle-schoolers.
Fun and engagement are top priorities, said Marshall Pendleton, associate principal at Covington Middle School and the district’s middle school coordinator for Camp Evergreen.
“If this isn’t fun and engaging, why would they bother coming?” Pendleton said.
“They’re laughing and giggling and we haven’t seen that in the past year with COVID.”
Nearly 1,000 families of middle school students registered their incoming sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders for the district’s two-week sessions in June and August. This week at Covington, the site of the middle school program, 460 students wrapped up the June summer session.
All incoming middle school students selected two focus areas for their summer school experience, from algebra readiness to science. Also included is Genius Hour, a self-directed project based on students’ individual interests.
Ryhan Gatlin, an incoming sixth-grader to Wy’East Middle School, focused her Genius Hour researching octopus, and expanding her knowledge of the creatures from a project she did earlier in the school year. She said she chose to attend the district’s summer school sessions to be better acclimated to middle school in the fall.
“It’s good practice to swap from class to class,” the 11-year-old said earlier this week.
At Evergreen, summer school is getting a boost this year from federal COVID-19 relief funds known as ESSER, for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief. The district received $63.7 million in ESSER funds, and estimates spending between $500,000 and $1 million for summer school sessions. That includes the district’s second of two-week sessions for elementary and middle school students in August. Pendleton said he hired 45 district staff for the June session.
Nasiera Abdullah, an incoming seventh-grader at Covington, spent the entire 2020-21 school year learning remotely, and summer school is the first time she’s spent lengthy time inside her middle school. One of Nasiera’s hobbies is art, and she found the art option the perfect way to express her creative talents. This week, she focused on a piece of abstract art using acrylic paint.
“I can express how I feel with my art,” the 12-year-old said. “It’s who I am with my art, and it’s very fun to see how it’s going to grow into a masterpiece.”
Nasiera said doing a summer session was important for not only getting acquainted with Covington, but also reacquainted with other middle school students in person, not on a screen.
“It’s different — I’m not going to lie,” Nasiera said. “I’m usually used to my family, but now I get to meet new people and new personalities and see how they do things.”