Summer learning offers many activities

Youth in the Ector County ISD Summer Learning Program get a sample of music, drama, art, and STEM, to name a few.

Just over 5,000 K-12 students have completed the programs, which include tuition and enrichment.

At Milam Elementary Magnet School, Zealia Jenkins said there were 177 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. They feed on Blackshear, Reagan, and Hays elementary schools.

“It’s been going really well,” said Jenkins, who is an assistant principal at Downing Elementary. “I think our enrichment has really helped keep our attendance. We have some drifting off, but they’re looking forward to that expression,” Jenkins said.

“…I was a counselor and that’s one of the most important things is choosing your elective. I think exposure just helps them to… refine some of the things that might interest them, or open them up to new things that might interest them. …,” Jenkins added.

Summer learning instructors Micaela Grenier, center, teaches her students a superhero-themed game Tuesday afternoon at Milam Magnet Elementary School. (Eli Hartman | American Odessa)

She said she was planning the students to have a week of everything.

Manuela Escajeda, Virtual Academy Coordinator, is helping with summer learning this year. It’s a full day this year and there are high school teachers offering their expertise.

Because it’s a full day, Jenkins said she thinks more parents signed up their kids. They also realize the value of continuing their children’s learning.

She noted that testing and evaluations have continued to determine whether the gaps are closing.

“…We have a pre-test and a post-test. We are all looking forward to this post-test to see how these shortcomings have (improved). It will definitely be a head start for a lot of those kids (during) the year instead of learning lost,” Jenkins said.

Jen Martin, education consultant at the Sperling Center for Research and Innovation, was visiting on Tuesday.

Executive Director of Professional Teaching and Learning Lisa Wills said Martin was here as part of the extra day school year grant, which is for elementary school only.

The grant spans three years, and Martin helped with strategic planning for summer learning, Wills said.

OHS Band Deputy Director Jimmy Olague taught elementary school students how to drum on tubanos and learn rhythms by playing what they had for dinner and performing little solos.

Odessa High School Summer Learning Instructor and Deputy Band Principal Jimmy Olague leads students through a drum drill Tuesday afternoon at Milam Magnet Elementary School. (Eli Hartman | American Odessa)

He said he had previously taught young children individually, but not in groups.

“It was a learning experience for me trying to be creative and figuring out how to reach out to them and how to keep them focused on what we’re doing in class. They are so energetic. Their spirits are everywhere. They want to do something different every 30 seconds to a minute and then do something else. I figured out what to do to keep them in line. It was cool. It was really cool, a great learning experience for me. I really enjoyed it,” Olague said.

He added that students get instant gratification from the drums.

“They just hit the drum and they do something. We used a lot of questions about what they had for dinner as beats…” Olague said.

They learn math without talking about it – how one note is longer than another or faster than another.

“…I don’t write musical notes on the board. We just answer questions by hand drumming,” Olague said.

At Cameron Elementary, Mireya Coy, an 11-year-old girl who attends Cameron, said she enjoyed the summer school activities. It’s his first year.

Coy said she would do it again. It is also an opportunity to see your peers again during the summer.

“It’s fun. You make a lot of new friends,” Coy said.

Skyla Finch, 6, plays congas during a summer class led by unpictured Jimmy Olague on Tuesday afternoon at Milam Magnet Elementary School. (Eli Hartman | American Odessa)

She added that summer learning will help during the regular school year “because all the subjects we do, it has something to do with what we do in class regularly, every day”.

Jessica Martinez, who usually teaches fourth grade at Cameron, offered a variety of arts and crafts activities. They had also cooked and made ice cream.

She brought LEGOs so the students could create a variety of structures and taught them how to interact and work with each other as part of a group.

Cecilia Huitron, a 9-year-old student from Cameron, says summer learning is really fun.

She likes that they were able to do activities and “express themselves through different kinds of things.”

Sara H. Byrd