An opportunity to meet new friends, to participate in themed dress days, and work with teachers from all four elementary schools – although this sounds like a summer camp, in reality, this was the design of Summer Soar, Dawson County’s elementary summer school experience.
Over 100 elementary students from all of Dawson County’s elementary schools were invited to participate in Summer Soar. This three-week, camp-like summer school started the same week that most students were enjoying their first week of summer.
The success of Summer Soar was dependent on the devotion of the county’s teachers and administrators. Dawson County teachers moved their instructional items to Riverview Elementary School, iPads were prepared and delivered with uniform programs, the transportation department mapped bus routes and the nutrition department planned freshly-cooked meals so classes could begin on May 31.
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As Summer Soar students arrived, it was like the first day of school all over again. Teachers and students quickly formed a community, not only within the walls of a classroom but with the entire Summer Soar group.
Each morning as students had breakfast together, a large group meeting occurred where students and teachers shared their success stories and provided feedback.
“I learned a lot about reading and math like division,” student Renata Lopez said. “This will help me.”
Many students said they loved their new friends and teachers, a huge compliment because all four elementary schools were combined for Summer Soar. Teachers also found an appreciation for the opportunity to collaborate with other elementary school teachers from across the district. Almost all of the staff members from last year’s summer program came back this year.
“The reason I keep coming back is that it is awesome to have a little bit of extra time with the boys and girls to continue to work on skills,” teacher Christy Millholland said. “To be able to be with the other teachers from other schools to collaborate and them is great as well.”
“Achieving academic gains was our main priority during Summer Soar, and our data shows student growth in all grade levels,” Summer Soar Coordinator Tasha Hamil said. “Having fun, so our students would want to return each day with a positive focus, was our second goal. Our daily attendance rates were amazing!”
The Summer Soar students wanted to return each day to participate in that day’s theme, ranging from wild hair day to hat day, dress like a pirate day to princess day. Students were also able to participate in fun activities like tie-dying shirts and learning about the Dawson County Sheriff Department’s K-9, Swat Team and Drone Units.
In addition to all the fun and opportunities for enrichment, the success of Summer Soar was in closing gaps in learning for the students. The teachers who participated were most encouraged by the commitment to success from the students.
Many students shared how their teachers had explained concepts in a way that finally made sense to them, and many showed growth, moving up several reading levels. All of the students took home a backpack full of books, flashcards, as well as a Summer Bridge book to continue learning at home until school begins in August. According to Hamil, Summer Soar leaders are very thankful that the school district invested in these bags full of academic supplies for the students.
According to survey data collected, Hamil said that students, families, and teachers all agree that the Summer Soar program was a huge success.