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Area students stay engaged with summer programs at local schools

While some students are just heading back to school, others – both in city and county schools – have been keeping busy with entertaining and educational activities all summer long.

Local schools served the student popular over the summer with a safe place to be during the day, breakfast, a snack, lunch and engaging activities to have fun and continue learning – all under the supervision of people who are teachers and aides at the school.

“We have indoor and outdoor games,” said Rhonda Pounders, West Elementary site coordinator for the 21st Century Community Learning Center PAWS program. PAWS references the Golden Tiger mascos and stands for Practice respect, Accept responsibility, make Wise choices and Stay focused.

“There are special days, including music day, ice cream truck day, movie day and Cooking with Coan, where students cook with Cindy Coan, RHS home economics teacher,” Pounders added. “This summer, we had 100 students in our program.”

Pounders said the program has helped students improve their grades. Remedial math and reading help are available. Students have technology access, including iPads and Chromebooks. Other ways they stay active in the program include STEM activities, art projects and physical education.

The summer program ran daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Student participation is free by means of grant money from the 21st CCLC program.

Pounders said one stipulation for the grant funding is a service project with the students. At West Elementary this year, the summer service project was painting Kindness Rocks and placing them in the landscaping outside the entrance to the school cafeteria.

“The students love to paint,” said Pounders, “and they loved working on something their teachers and classmates would enjoy upon their return to school.”

Angela Crittenden, site coordinator for Russellville Elementary, said RES had 115 students for the summer program.

“Reading and math skills are a focus. We worked on learning all 50 states and their capitals and finding them on a map,” Crittenden said. “The students also learned about being good friends, using cursive to write a signature and about how to balance a bank account.”

Other activities included a magic show by Steve Trash that included a focus on character education. A 4H representative taught the students how to filter water, build a temporary shelter and start a fire.

Their summer service project was making toys for animals in shelters.

Art activities were available each day, with some of the projects being to make bracelets, create keychains with shrink material, paint canvases and make frames from Popsicle sticks.

Crittenden said STEM activities took place at least three days out of every week, and a lot of technology was involved, like Ozobots. Students learned to make Google Slides and type documents.

Two students from Addie’s Flip, Tip, and Tap studio taught dance each week.

“We also had music, music theory and Cooking with Coan,” said Crittenden. “That’s always a hit. They made fruit pizzas, ‘fish pond treats,’ ham and cheese calzones and mini corn dog muffins.”

Coan, along with reigning Miss RHS Lauren Sturdivant, led a High Heel Boot Camp. The girls learned an opening number and how to walk on a stage, practiced etiquette and made homemade beauty products. Parents were invited to RES to watch the girls show off their new skills and have a tea party.

Pounders said physical education activities included softball, soccer, volleyball and tennis. “We were fortunate to have a college baseball player, Landon Ezzell, and a college tennis player, Ellyse Strickland, work with our students this summer.”

County schools also offered a range of hands-on learning and fun opportunities for children throughout the summer.

“We provided academic enrichment and a lot of fun in a safe environment,” said Lisa Gann, Franklin County’s 21st Century program director. “Students had two meals, a snack and enrichment in math and reading. Games, field trips and social interactions are other benefits they received by being in the program this summer.

“We have wonderful teachers and aids,” Gann added. “Steve Trash came. We went to Helen Keller’s home. Other trips included splash pads, the Cook museum in Decatur and the Indian museum in Florence.

“It’s been a wonderful summer.”