A summer of adding to skills

Columbia: A program at Wilde Lake Middle School helps pupils strengthen their math and reading skills.

Education

July 14, 2004|By Tawanda W. Johnson | Tawanda W. Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Math used to frighten Anthony Dorsey.

Not anymore.

Thanks to his participation in the Academic Intervention Summer School program at Wilde Lake Middle School in Columbia, Anthony, who will be a sixth-grader, isn't afraid to tackle fractions, decimals, division, multiplication or any other math problem that comes his way.

"I used to be afraid to do math, but my teacher [Sarita Payne] has helped me out a lot by teaching me how to do the problems," said Anthony, 11.

Anthony is one of 62 children participating in the four-week program, which helps them strengthen math and reading skills.

The program, which began June 28 and will end July 23, is one of many at schools throughout the county.

The pupils, who will be entering the sixth, seventh and eighth grades, were selected to attend the program based on recommendations from their teachers during the previous school year.

The pupils were tested before the program started to help teachers assess their skills. Tests after it ends will determine how much progress they have made.

Parents can discuss their children's progress through conferences with teachers.

"The students aren't here because they're going to fail if they don't attend," said Sandy Rouiller, lead teacher at the summer school. "They are here because we have 10 weeks off in the summer and it's a way to help them keep their skills [sharp]."

Rouiller said students in the county school system are sent homework packets to maintain their skills during the summer, but teachers generally spend the first quarter of every new school year reviewing old material.

For those who have attended summer school, Rouiller said, "the teachers aren't spending so much time on review."

For three hours, beginning at 8:15 a.m., nine teachers work with the pupils by reviewing reading and math vocabulary, giving them math problems to complete and helping them comprehend novels, among other things.

An academic life skills class helps special education pupils striving for a certificate of completion by teaching them basic skills such as the parts of speech and telling time, said Rouiller.

Last week, during a tour of classrooms at the school, many pupils volunteered to complete math problems and reading assignments.

Payne said math goals for her class include helping the youths understand word problems and fractions, and how to use calculators and other mathematical aids.

"I think they're doing well," she said. "I have spent some time reviewing and will be moving on to some sixth-grade objectives.

Payne gives the pupils weekly quizzes to test their knowledge of the mathematical concepts and is a proponent of using flash cards to help the class.

"They really do work," she said.

Lynette Torres, 12, who will be a sixth-grader, said being in Payne's class has been "good."

"I'm learning how to add, subtract and reduce fractions," she said.

The summer program doesn't end after the academic subjects have been taught.

Of the 62 pupils enrolled in the program, 45 were chosen on a first-come, first-served basis to attend a free afternoon program of field trips run by the county Department of Recreation and Parks.

The children have taken trips to Earth Treks, an indoor climbing wall in Columbia; Middle Patuxent Park; and Shadow Land, a laser adventure center in Columbia.

Trips are planned to the movies, swimming and Swans Creek, where the pupils will conduct stream studies.

Rouiller said the afternoon trips, which cost about $9,000, are funded by Bridges Over Wilde Lake, a state education grant.

"The students are doing very well. They're doing their homework and they're having a lot of fun," Rouiller said.

Referring to Earth Treks, she said, "It's great because it's something many of them have never done before. It builds teamwork and confidence."

The afternoon program has been popular. Parents have asked for additional spots for their children, Rouiller said.

"It's definitely well-organized, but unfortunately there aren't any more spots," she said.

Rouiller said the summer school program is not what many people are used to.

"It's not humdrum. It's fun. It's something to enhance their skills," she said.

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