Summer learning - Program focuses on math, science

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By Mercy Lopez

Summer months usually mean a break from the classroom for some students. But for more than 150 students, three weeks of summer vacation was back in the classroom in a non-traditional way. They all participated in the free 21st Century summer program that was geared towards science, technology, engineering and math. The children between kindergarten through eighth grade aged spent three weeks learning in various hands-on techniques.

Coordinator of the program,  April Ortiz, said the program focused specifically on science, technology, engineering and math as that’s where children struggle with academically.

Roughly 130 students participated in the program at Sierra Vista Elementary and 40 teens joined in at Memorial Middle School

At the elementary level, Ortiz said, the kids drew out robots, and learned the academic subjects through various hands-on activities using various items including Legos.

At Memorial Middle School, the students were able to program robots using computers, build objects including cars powered by water, using Legos, and learned to build circuit boards. Ortiz said there was also a lesson that pertained specifically to roller coasters that was used as a teaching method to teach math, including velocity. The roller coaster lesson prepared the students for their finale trip to Cliff’s Amusement Park in Albuquerque. She said the younger children enjoyed the water park while the older kids enjoyed the rides.

“The program allows teachers the opportunity to teach different things outside of the normal school year,” Ortiz said. “It also allows the kids to think outside the box and every lesson is directly tied to the program’s curriculum.”

Memorial Middle School teacher Allison Santillanes conducted various experiments with the students,  including one with dry ice and another on making bubbles.

“The program was fun and exciting for everyone,” Ortiz said. “The teachers came up with the ideas and they had a blast implementing the lessons.”

The students at both levels were also able to implement technology into their education using iPads and computers.

The children also had a physical education component every day,  where they learned about flexibility, body composition and the amount of time it should take to run a mile.

“The kids learned a lot in the program including the importance of being in shape and taking care of themselves,” Ortiz said. “All the credit goes out to the teachers. They did amazing lesson plans and were so excited that they made the program successful.”

During the program, the children were also fed both breakfast and lunch by the district’s summer food program. The children signed up for this free program at the end of the school year. Ortiz said West Las Vegas Schools also had a similar program.

Ortiz said the 21st Century program will provide an after-school program starting in the fall. This specific program will help children with homework and academic enrichment. The fall program starts right after school until 5:30 p.m. and is open for children from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Applications for the free after-school program are available at the district’s website at www.cybercardinal.com or at Las Vegas City School sites.