ELKHART — This summer, about 300 elementary school students in Elkhart are getting to enjoy hands-on activities while providing teaching experience to some young educators through two summer laboratory schools.
Ten education teachers or recent teacher graduates from Indiana University South Bend are leading classes at Bristol Elementary, while 10 from Saint Mary’s College are working with classes of elementary students at Cleveland Elementary.
The Elkhart County Community Foundation is funding the programs, along with a few other sponsors from the community.
Organizers intend the program to help give the new teachers classroom experience while helping the elementary students prevent summer learning loss and continue to grow during the out-of-school months.
Research shows that no matter the economic status of students, they can all experience summer learning loss, explained Elkhart Superintendent Rob Haworth.
A variety of elementary students are involved in the summer program, both students ready to dig deeper into school subjects and students who may need a little more assistance, he said. A field trip to each school’s teachers’ college is also a part of the program, along with other ways for students to learn about IUSB and Saint Mary’s. Helping the elementary students think about college and their future plans is one of the goals of the program, organizers said.
Each summer lab school has an Elkhart Community Schools principal overseeing the program, two lab school coordinators named by IUSB or Saint Mary’s and two current Elkhart Community Schools teachers who are alumnae of IUSB or Saint Mary’s to help out the teachers, as well as the recent education graduates or education students themselves.
The classes meet Monday through Thursday mornings for six weeks during the summer. They started Monday, June 10, and will continue through most of July.
Keith Baker, the principal of Cleveland’s program, pointed out how the summer program offers the education students and graduates from Saint Mary’s and IUSB’s education programs the chance to gain teaching experience and be creative in their teaching without the pressure of the formal school year.
“I just think it’s an opportunity for students to grow and to gain that experience,” he said. “We want the students to be future leaders and this is just an opportunity for them to develop those skills.”
He pointed out that the student teachers had taken it on their own to write grants for Saint Mary’s spiral notebooks, folders, pencils and other supplies that each student at Cleveland’s program will receive.
The principal of the program at Bristol, Harold Walt, said he’s especially excited for all the hands-on learning the kids are getting to do, including some science investigation and experimentation. The organizers of Bristol’s program have also set up a weekly time for activities mostly related to health and wellness that have kids cooking, gardening, doing yoga or taekwondo, among other options.
IUSB has also donated some to the program, along with donations from area organizations including Better World Books. ETHOS Science Center is also involved, Walt said.
“It’s a very collaborative effort,” he said.
Elkhart Community Schools has a three-year partnership with IUSB and Saint Mary’s for the summer laboratory schools. This year, both Feeser and Cleveland students are participating at the Cleveland site, while both Bristol and Riverview students are participating at the Bristol program.
According to Elkhart Community Schools, the grant from the Elkhart County Community Foundation is to support the start of an Elkhart Community Schools Summer Laboratory School Network, which could expand in the future. Saint Mary’s and IUSB are the first higher education schools to put programs in operation. Information from the school system also stated that these lab schools are the first summer laboratory schools in northern Indiana public schools.