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Charleston Daily Mail
Wednesday June 27, 2012
by Dave Boucher
Parents who thought they were just getting a babysitter from Marshall University‘s local summer school could not have been more wrong. Instead, the Summer K-12 Program provides 60 graduate-level education students and 10 university officials to cater to its 125 participants through an ever-changing array of activity-based learning methods.
“They’ll practice academic skills and not even realize they’re doing it,” said Dr. Joyce Meikamp, director of the program for the past 14 years. Participants are spending four mornings a week through July 19 at Stonewall Jackson Middle School, learning from activities that change on a daily basis, Meikamp said.
Students are placed in age-appropriate “teams” that meet in different classrooms, she said. There are as many as seven instructors in each class, working at stations that students rotate between throughout the day. Students read for an hour every morning and are provided breakfast and lunch every day during the six-week program, Meikamp said.
Courses are nontraditional: In one classroom Tuesday, some students were using a computer to play a word-matching game while others were working with a teacher to see if there was a correlation between thumb size and aptitude on math tests. In another, some students were making insects out of soda bottles while others were listening to a teacher read a book.
“We make the learning fun, but we also at the same time meet their needs,” Meikamp said.
Students attend for different reasons. Some just want to meet new friends, but Meikamp said others are referred to the program because they’re experiencing social or academic problems in their home schools.
There are special education students and others who need additional attention, said Dr. Sandra Stroebel, coordinator of Marshall’s School Psychology program. While these students are integrated into the teams with other students, they also can receive special instruction from a team of educational psychologists, she said.
Often such students are referred to the camp so successful programs can be identified for them.
“Bring them here this summer, let’s look at them more closely,” Stroebel said, referencing interactions she’s had with parents. “That’s the exciting part.”
The psychologists work with students and parents to assess needs and create goals, she said. Marshall psychology students in every room watch and work with children throughout the day, she said.
If the psychologists hit on a program that fits a student particularly well, they pass along that information to parents and the student’s home school, said Renee Ecckles-Hardy, an adjunct professor at Marshall and a psychologist with Kanawha County Schools.
Psychologists who work in the schools during the year can further implement plans developed during the summer, she said.
Not all help from instructors is for the camp attendees, said school psychology professor Stephen O’Keefe. Recently a camper was lying on his back and wouldn’t get up, and the instructor had no idea what to do.
“The primary purpose of the program is teaching,” O’Keefe said, adding he helped the graduate student defuse the situation. “It’s a chance to show what (Marshall students) have learned.”
The education students come from a variety of different specialties, including school psychology, school counseling, special education and student literacy. In addition to instruction pointers, the Marshall students are assessed on the level of success seen in their students, Stroebel explained.
“We’re always collecting data to see how effective are we,” she said.
Students are tested at the beginning and end of the program to see if there has been improvement, Meikamp said. The data generally shows students learn well in the small group setting, O’Keefe said.
Meikamp said she has heard from numerous families that credit the camp for their students’ success from one year to the next.
Although the program has had trouble finding a home in the past, Meikamp said the administration at Stonewall Jackson has been very accommodating to Marshall and many of the camp’s West Side participants.
The camp costs $100, but any child who meets the national qualifications for a free or reduced-price lunch is eligible for a scholarship, Meikamp said.
About 75 percent of the campers receive scholarships, a sign that the program is doing more than keeping students from sliding academically during summer break.
“For some of our students, it provides a safe, nurturing environment,” Meikamp said. “It gets kids off the street.”
While the student-instructors pay regular course fees for the camp, Marshall does not recoup all of the program’s expenses from attendance proceeds, Meikamp said. Instead, the dean of the education school and other university administrators believe it’s a worthwhile endeavor for both Marshall students and the children they’re instructing.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Meikamp said.
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