OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego City School District’s Accelerated Summer Academy is benefiting dozens of seventh, eighth and ninth graders.
“WeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re not focusing our instructional efforts on what students didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t learn last year. Instead, we are working on building the skills and background knowledge that our students will need to be successful next year,” explained Catherine Celeste, Summer Academy Administrator. “This will hopefully support a smoother transition to the next grade level.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
It is the third year of the program at Oswego Middle School and Celeste’s first year as administrator.
It is a wonderful program and she is greatly impressed with the cooperation and teamwork exhibited by the teachers.
“I am very excited to be working with this group of teachers, they’re very accommodating. If one teacher needs some extra time for something, the others have helped out by rearranging their schedules. We have about 65 students involved this year. These are students who were recommended by their current teacher,” she said.
“It is an accelerated program that highlights the first couple months’ curriculum of what the students will be studying in the new year,” explained Anne Babcock (social studies), one of the teachers involved in the program. “They are learning to listen, involved in cooperative learning, gaining organizational skills and this will really help them get a jump in high school.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Other teachers involved with the ninth grade project were Megan Daley, science; Elizabeth Crannell, math; and Sarah Williams, English.
The students are working with the teachers that they are going to have.
“It’s not a remedial program; it’s not a punishment at all,” Celeste said. “It is really, ‘let’s start the school year off right.’ This, by all parties involved, has a really, really good reputation.”
Throughout the program, the 65 students are involved in an intensive, personal educational experience.
The core courses of English, social studies, math and science are included in the program.
By connecting with the youngsters now, the teachers are pretty much assured of having good students from the very start of the new year, Celeste noted.
“We know it’s at the beginning of the new year that you’re either going to herd them or have a struggle,” she said. “This program helps the students get started and avoid any struggles once school starts.”
The 65 represents a mixed bag of students. There is no set criteria to participate in the program, Teachers suggest students they think will benefit.
“We have students here for a variety of reasons,” Celeste said.
As part of a program highlighting the intricacies of archeology, ninth graders were ‘excavating’ chocolate chip cookies.
The students had mapped out an area near the school. According to the scenario, they had discovered a longhouse, some arrowheads, pottery and other artifacts.
To get a taste of what it’s like to remove historic relics from dirt and rocks, the students used bent paper clips to dig out chocolate chips from cookies.
“That’s what archeology is, that minute, detailed kind of work,” Celeste pointed out. “They will have to record where the artifacts were found and then they are going to be writing about it. So they are using their math and science skills and this is a history project.”
“All the core courses, English, social studies, math and science, all come together here,” Babcock said at the archeology site.
Besides activities at the school, students have traveled around the area on field trips, according to student Chelsea White.
“We went to the railroad museum, marine museum, Fort Ontario and Safe Haven and SUNY Oswego for the planetarium,” she said.
Of the faux archeological project, she said, “It’s kind of cool, but it’s weird how long it takes to dig stuff out and record everything. It’s more like a hobby than a job.”
The students have also visited Rice Creek and had Rosemary Nesbitt stop by to share some local ghostly tales.
“If you ever wanted to see 65 kids silent, that was the time,” Celeste said. “They were sitting there, quietly, really listening.”
The students seem to be having a good time and are looking forward to the next school year, which is the goal for the program, she noted.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe kids are learning some of the stuff that they’re going to get in the beginning of the school year, so that they start the school year off right, start with confidence and a good rapport with the teacher so that they can make it through the school year without any problems” Celeste said. “So, it’s really a novel approach to helping these kids progress.”
The teachers also get to know the kids that much quicker, which is a hurdle every teacher would like to get over, she added.
A few years ago, former OMS Principal Constance Evelyn saw the success of this type of program at Rome Free Academy. She presented the concept to Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Cathy Chamberlain and it has become a reality.
This unique program is totally different from the traditional summer school. There is no homework and no grades.
Celeste will be looking at data from last year’s students’ progress and will present a report on the program some time this fall to the board of education.
By all accounts, just from talking with the teachers, they are seeing success from the kids that were in the program, she said.
“This is a program that is here to stay and I think we’re going to see the benefits of it because it is such a unique program,” she said.