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Making the Most of My Summer

Lesley McClendon is one of our 2014 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators and a top 16 "Lead PBS Digital Innovators". She contributes this post on how she's spending her summer.

When Rosemary Jean Louis of GPB invited me to share a post on the Passion for Learning blog, I was thrilled. Write about what teachers do during the summer, she suggested. As she asked if I am involved in any kind of interesting summer professional development opportunities, I had to smile. I do, in fact, enjoy learning during the summer months - it just happens to be in the company of approximately 140 lively middle school students!

You see, by the end of a long school year, when most students are gleefully forgoing study sessions at the local library for hanging out at the neighborhood pool, there is a group of dedicated young men and women - rising 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students from schools across the Atlanta area - who forge ahead with their academic efforts.

They are members of Reach for Excellence, a tuition-free educational and leadership program that prepares underserved Atlanta-area students to succeed in high school and stay on the path to college. Beginning in their 6th grade year, Reach students make a three-year commitment to attend weekend and summer classes.

By early June, they descend upon the Marist School campus for what is fondly known as Summer Session, a rigorous full-time course of study that includes daily sessions of Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Study Skills instruction.

But don’t think that it’s all work and no play for Reach students. After hitting the books, they have plenty of chances for summer fun - from swimming in an Olympic size pool (where yours truly reigns as a lifeguard!) to playing tennis and practicing karate moves.

Even much of the learning that takes place is outside of the classroom, as plentiful summer field trips engages students in opportunities for critical thinking and the hands-on exploration of a wide range of compelling topics.

This summer at Reach promises to be a busy one for rising 7th graders, with visits scheduled for the Breman Museum and the Kennesaw State University Museum of History and the Holocaust. To demonstrate their learning about this time in history, students will be decorating three trunks for the Holocaust Learning Trunk project, and they will visit the Anne Frank in the World Exhibition in order to deliver the trunks and explore the exhibits. They’ll also have the chance to visit the Atlanta History Museum and learn about African American history through the exploration of the unique artifacts of the Kinsey Exhibit.

I’ll be keeping you posted as the Summer Session unfolds for these young scholars, and I’ll also be sharing some of the interesting ways Reach teachers are transforming instructional activities with the incorporation of games and technology!

View the slideshow of photos.