Horizons at KCC kids tackle summer learning

Editor’s note: The following article first appeared on page 33 of the current edition of Scene Magazine (volume 37, number 06). Click here for more information about the 2012 Horizons at KCC program, which ends today.

Asking the kids what their favorite activity was at the end of their first week as part of the Horizons at KCC summer learning program produced a number of answers recently.

Brandy said she likes drawing best, while Da’Caray and Naka said they like the puzzles. Jakaylah spoke about the animals they saw on a field trip to the Growing Point Pet Center – “the little tiny babies, a spider, a snake and a lizard” – while Alan summed the experience up nicely.

“I like everything,” he said.

The Horizons at KCC program started on June 18 and will run through July 27, offering 15 area low-income public school students going into first grade a chance to attend classes in literacy and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) each weekday morning in addition to swimming or field trips each afternoon.

Kellogg Community College is the first school in the state to offer the program – produced through Horizons National – and is doing so in partnership with the Battle Creek YMCA and Battle Creek Public Schools.

Karen Kopf, one of the four certified teachers working with the students on their first Friday of the program, said Horizons at KCC is a great program with a great philosophy.

“It’s bringing culture to their lives that they normally wouldn’t experience,” Kopf said, noting the field trips offer “project-based learning that they normally wouldn’t do in a general education classroom.”

The focus offered by teachers who push them to keep learning through the summer gives the kids the opportunity for “the most amazing learning experience,” she said.

Wanda Miller, an adjunct professor at KCC and director of the Horizons at KCC program, said the purpose of the program is to “prevent summer learning loss in at-risk youth, helping these students maintain or gain knowledge to be on par with their peers the next fall.”

As part of the program, the same group of students will return each summer through eighth grade. Beginning next summer, two additional cohorts of 15 students going into first grade will be added each year, meaning in nine years the program will be a true K-8 summer program encouraging kids to see themselves as lifelong learners and future college students from the start of their education.

Each group of 15 students will be instructed by a lead teacher, an assistant teacher and up to three teaching assistants. Additionally, a reading specialist will work individually with the students on literacy skills.

Barb Starring, the reading specialist, said it’s crucial for the students to continue their reading skills through the summer.

“We as teachers end up spending a quite a lot of time getting them back up to grade level,” Starring said. “Stopping that summer slide is very important.”

Starring spent the morning of the kids’ first Friday at Horizons at KCC pulling students out in groups of twos and threes to work on their reading and writing skills in a separate classroom. The other students took turns at table stations practicing their writing, working on thank-you cards for staff at the Growing Point, and making colored “slime” out of paint and glue before moving on to math instruction.

“I think it’s going really well,” Kopf said. “We’ve got a lot of good kids with good hearts here.”

In the photos above, from left to right, instructor Lacey Hudson works with a student during a recent morning session of the Horizons at KCC program; a Horizons at KCC student reacts as she makes colored “slime” during a recent morning session of the Horizons at KCC program; and instructor Karen Kopf helps students make the colored “slime” during a recent morning session of the Horizons at KCC program.