TURLOCK — Three weeks of summer camp pumped up math, science and computer basics for middle school students and gave a fresh perspective to the university students helping out as their teachers.
The 26th session of the Pre-Freshman Enrichment Program, called PREP 2014, wound up Thursday at California State University, Stanislaus. This year’s class included 88 kids, most of them foster youth or from farmworker families that follow the crops – traditionally among the groups that struggle most in school.
“The take-home moment for me was getting to see students get interested in science,” said Stanislaus State chemistry major Robert Baughn. “It’s good to see it come alive for them.”
Baughn was among some 30 science students and teachers in training tapped to help with the three-week intensive program. All-day classes were divided into two math sessions, two science sessions, one technology period and a time for yoga and meditation, said student coordinator Maria Newsome.
“For the two-period blocks, the first one they were learning fundamentals and the second were hands-on activities. For example, in one they were learning about shapes and in the second one they were making their golf courses. When they learned about intersecting lines, that became making kites,” she said.
The real-world applications used successfully for 25 years in the summer academy are good examples of Common Core teaching strategies, said Newsome, who will be teaching science at Turlock Junior High when the school year starts.
Technology time focused on free-to-all Google applications, including its ubiquitous search engine. Students were encouraged to research their favorite soccer players, their hometowns or other topics.
“Many of these kids have never been on a computer before,” she said. “These are foundational skills.”
Yoga and breathing exercises fit into a session called “mind and body.” A poster noted it was “very fun because you get to take off your shoes.” Dream time while stretching was popular, as was a modified “warrior” pose while yelling. The session let the preteens step away from sometimes stressful lives and learn ways to release tension, Newsome said.
“It is inspiring and invigorating to see these kids’ desire to learn,” said program leader Viji Sundar, a math professor at the university.
The program got its start in 1989, when Sundar despaired that her sixth-grader had learned little that school year. “I realized my child was not prepared for junior high,” she said. Hearing other parents in the class had similar concerns, Sundar said, “I told them, ‘Don’t worry. Give me your kids for four weeks.’ ”
The first year, there were 16 incoming seventh-graders taught by Sundar in classes organized by Rita Glyn, a math department secretary. Glyn stayed with the program through last year.
“Students seem to be telling us that this program made a difference,” Glyn said. “It changed their perception of themselves and helped them become better students. And that’s what it’s all about.”