Boulter Summer Academy Teaching Students In New Ways
By EMILY GUEVARA
Anastasia Wise didn't have many plans for the summer, so she decided to go to school, at least for part of it.
For more than a month, the soon-to-be freshman at Robert E. Lee High School has been learning about math, science, art and health but in nontraditional ways and with smaller groups of her peers.
"I like the art class because we're building cartoons," Anastasia, 14, said.
Sixty students are enrolled in Boulter Middle School's six-week University Academy, with as many as 40 students attending daily. The program, put on by The University of Texas at Tyler, also is being held at Stewart and Dogan middle schools.
At Boulter, students participated in five classes through the program including sports, art, teen leadership, health and project-based learning.
They also had a robotics class the first three weeks of the program. It was replaced by teen leadership the last three weeks. Classes alternate depending upon whether it's an A day or a B day.
"We're trying to give them a safe place to go during summer so they're still on track for the school year," Jennifer Bryant, academic coordinator for Boulter's University Academy program, said.
On Tuesday, Michael Ramos, 12, a Boulter seventh-grader, demonstrated how he could use an iPad to create video cartoons. Michael and his peers drew their cartoon in storyboard form on paper.
They then transferred that cartoon to the Toontastic app on the iPad where they could design and narrate them. They also created comic strips on the iPad.
"I enjoy it because when I'm home, I don't really do anything but watch TV, and I guess this is better than wasting my time watching TV," Michael said.
Boulter art teacher Ira Wesley said her desire is for students to connect language arts, writing and technology.
"I wanted them to know that art is not just pencil and paper," Ms. Wesley said. "It's gone a different direction with digital storytelling."
Devin Magness, the project-based learning class teacher and a UT Tyler education student, described some of the projects the students have done in his class.
These included designing and building 3D scale models of an irrigation system for the school's outdoor learning classroom and creating an activity for an upcoming field day.
Both projects required the students to use technology. For the irrigation system, they made PowerPoint presentations to make a case for the systems.
With the field day activity project, they created Word documents with detailed directions about their activity, Excel spreadsheets outlining the cost for materials, and Microsoft Publisher posters to be used at their field day activity.
"I want it to be different than regular school," Magness said of his class. "I'd rather (them) have more of a hands-on experience."
For Boulter, the summer program is an extension of its school year programs. UT Tyler with support from an $8.75 million grant works with Boulter, Dogan and Stewart to offer the After-School Centers of Education, or the ACE program, during the school year.
Through the program, students can receive academic assistance and participate in enrichment activities.
In addition, Boulter with support from a federal grant, the campus is working toward becoming a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) academy.
Ms. Bryant said a major goal of the school's programs and its project-based learning activities in particular is to build students' 21st century learning skills and give them real-life problems to solve or projects to work on.
"We're all about having those finished products that are relevant," Ms. Bryant said.