Your Public Schools: National Summer Learning Day is tomorrow: Celebrate!It seems that everything has a national day or week for special recognition nowadays.
By: Tom Westerhaus, school superintendent, River Falls Journal
It seems that everything has a national day or week for special recognition nowadays.
I didn’t know until recently that July 17 was designated in 2005 by the Summer Learning Institute at Johns Hopkins University as the first “Summer Learning Day.”
In the interest of celebrating that day this year, I thought I’d write one of my occasional summer columns to help you learn about things happening around the school district this summer.
Summer school offerings are perhaps the most prominent of activities occurring in our schools. Our district is blessed with an outstanding array of summer opportunities for students in elementary through high school that started mid-June and continue throughout July.
Core 21st century reading, writing and math skills are the focus of an extensive elementary program, but enrichment opportunities for our grade school students are also available. High interest learning opportunities in one or two week-long courses such as Creating Books, Crime Scene Mysteries, Wolves of North America, Hablamos Espanol!, Bugs, Bugs, Bugs! and Makin’ Music Stomp Style combine students’ natural loves and fun into great experiences of keeping learning alive during the summer.
Another favorite of mine is “You in the Middle” for sixth graders coming into Meyer Middle School this fall. This orientation program allows them to have several hours learning about the school, understanding rules, policies and procedures, and working to improve study habits in order to succeed at MMS.
Marching Band is a big part of the high school program, but Speed and Strength Training, Acrylic Painting, Driver Education, and various career development opportunities also are available for high school students.
Day trips to places like Camp St. Croix, Wildlife Science Center, the Twins’ Metrodome, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art, as well as longer trips to Washington, D.C., for eighth graders and science teacher Dan Hoffman’s trip to the Amazon rainforest with high school students are available with students paying the appropriate costs of the trip.
Of course, maintenance of our buildings occurs throughout the summer, with custodians, the groundskeeper, a “handyman,” and outside vendors working to keep our taxpayers’ investment in facilities and grounds in good working order.
This summer, energy efficient lighting is being installed in Westside and the middle school, the Academy elevator is being modernized, the fire alarm panel at Westside replaced, repairs are being made to classroom walls and flooring at the high school, shrubbery and tree clean-up and replacement is occurring at all buildings, and a number of other initiatives are being tackled throughout the district during the summer break.
And I can’t ignore all of the professional development opportunities that occur during the summer for our staff members to continue their learning, as well. Eleven River Falls School District teachers and administrators attended the 17th annual Model Schools Conference hosted by educational expert Bill Daggett in Atlanta in June. This conference focused on instructional practices and leadership approaches that have dramatically improved student performance and achievement.
Over 50 members of our staff will attend the STAR Academy at our own RFHS Aug. 3-6. This conference is sponsored by our CESA consortium and will be keynoted by Cris Tovani and Debbie Miller, both of whom bring expertise in working on developing reading comprehension in the content areas and creating classroom environments that reflect what we believe about effective teaching and learning.
Individual workshops and training experiences also are occurring with our staff for Project Lead the Way, Speech and Language instruction, and elementary Smart Board Training. Curriculum work is being done with the Luci Calkins’ writing strategies and the Response to Intervention (RTI) problem-solving model.
These are but a sampling of the activities and opportunities occurring within our school district during summer 2009. In addition to all of this, preparations are well under way for the coming 2009-10 school year. With the 4th of July weekend and River Falls Days behind us, we know summer is moving along quickly, but it is good for you to know that our work has not stopped and learning continues even during June, July, and August.
I guess that’s a reason to celebrate National Summer Learning Day.