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Morrison adds fun twist to summer school
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How many pencils does August Bell need for Acceleration Academy? This many. She’s pictured with, from left, Julian Lopez, Chloe Pendergraph and Kendal Terry.

Morrison School is rethinking summer school for the 2021 Acceleration Academy. 

“We wanted to make this session feels more like a field trip and not just summer school,” said Angie Childers, who oversees Morrison’s Acceleration Academy. “We don’t want them to feel like they are missing out on summer fun. I think all the schools are putting forth extra efforts to make these sessions both fun and effective. This is what we’re doing.”

The school had 96 children signed up for learning loss camp, which must include six hours of instruction. At the beginning, and end, of the four-week session, students are tested. Those tests will determine if offering the summer session was effective in bridging the learning gap created in the pandemic when in-person class time and learning were lost. 

Childers says she can see improvements in learning are being made through moments of sudden insight.

“We’ve seen so many aha moments. They are learning things they didn’t know before or couldn’t comprehend before now,” said Childers. “Some of that is probably because the classes are so much smaller and students are receiving more one-on-one instruction with teachers. It has been a wonderful experience so far, and I’m happy to be part of it.”

Even without the pandemic, the summer slide (a term used when students lose some of the knowledge they gained during the school year while on summer break) is real. 

“The summer slide is huge, especially with the lower grades,” said Childers. “So, consistent instruction is best. We understand students want their summer breaks. If we can give them some intense instruction, even for a short time during the summer, it reduces learning loss.”

While meeting the state’s instructional requirements, efforts have been made to make the session fun by using virtual field trips and adding themes to the weeks.

“Each morning during breakfast we take a virtual field trip that fits in with our theme that week,” said Childers. “Week one we went camping in the mountains. Last week we went to the Wild West. This week we are being city slickers. We went to New York City today. Tomorrow, we are going to Hollywood. The virtual field trip is a slide show.”

Each student has a travel buddy and is issued passports in which to log their trips. Among their other journeys, they visited a Dude Ranch, Yellow Stone National Park, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Washington D.C., and discovering Tennessee towns with Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, etc. 

“At the end of each week, they can win prizes,” said Childers. “We try to make the prizes match that week’s theme. Last week, one of the prizes was to visit Mrs. April Murphy’s horses on her farm. We have some kids who have never ridden a horse. Importantly, we are doing all this while meeting the instruction requirements. We are correcting the learning loss, but also building a summer vacation.”

The school’s last week will be a beach and cruise themed week. Students will be whisked off, via a slide show, to Eagle Beach and Aruba. Physical education will include a Hawaiian Luau with beach balls, limbo and snow cones.