It was transition time in Kyrene de los Cerritos assistant principal Kelly Bruner’s classroom. Students had just finished an activity cutting out pictures with different sized groups of sea creatures and matching them with a corresponding number on a sheet.
But Bruner started calling students over to a circle with a song, handing students different instruments to play for a minute before collecting them and announcing the next activity: “Time for morning greeting!”
This wouldn’t be an unusual scene in a kindergarten classroom, but this is the middle of June. And Bruner’s students aren’t in kindergarten: They’re in a summer Getting Ready for Kindergarten class.
It’s not just the young students spending their summer in a classroom. About 1,300 elementary and middle school-aged kids are spending the month studying topics from LEGO robotics to extreme math to yoga in the Kyrene School District’s summer academies.
The summer academies have been around for several years and remain popular, even as people are cutting out activities and costs due to the recession, said Jessey Johnson, principal of Cerritos’ summer academy.
“We try to make these classes so they’re not babysitting,” Johnson said. “We try to make them fun and so they’ll learn something, and get an experience they couldn’t replicate at home.”
Those experiences range from academic to just plain fun. Students in one classroom were studying sports math, calculating the mean, median and mode that different Celtics and Lakers players scored during the previous evening’s playoff game. Another group has to solve problems, using materials like popsicle sticks, clay and marshmallows to build something that will solve a problem set at the beginning of the class. Dodgeball has also proved popular, since students can’t play it during the school year.
Back in the Getting Ready for Kindergarten classroom, Bruner said her course would help students get a leg up before the school year starts.
“This will help them when they get into their regular kindergarten class,” Bruner said. “They’ll know how to follow one- and two-step directions, how to take responsibility for their own things and how to work in a large group.”
Parents can help their young students learn some of the content before they go to kindergarten, but learning in a classroom setting is a whole different experience, Bruner said.
“We have to share the space, and share the supplies, and learn to greet each other,” Bruner said. Whereas at home, it’s usually just a parent working with one or two kids, not a group of 12, like Bruner’s classroom.
Bruner picked lessons from the first few weeks of the kindergarten school year to cover in her month-long class. After going around a circle and greeting each other, students practiced counting and writing numbers, first in the air, then tracing them on their hands, then on the interactive Smart board at the front of the room.
The lesson was a hit with students.
“We like when it’s circle time, and the singing part, too,” said student Reese Hetzer.
The Kyrene district usually offers classes in June, but has added a July section this year, said district spokeswoman Nancy Dudenhoefer.
Since this is the first year and demand hasn’t been high – only 350 students across the district so far – the classes will only be offered to elementary grades at Paloma Elementary School, 5000 W. Whitten Drive, Chandler. However, Ahwatukee residents will be able to get bus service from Cerritos.
For more information or to sign up, visit www.kyrene.org/eservices. Registration ends June 21.