A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

At Jones Middle School the ‘Summer Fun’ program is just that — fun (but with lots of learning going on!)

By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune reporter

Summer school was ‘Summer Fun’ this year. At Jones Middle School in Florence, teachers engaged students in a “Summer Fun Program.” This non-academic program was designed for the kids to enjoy engaging activities including art projects, physical engagement, and games. Through these activities, the students built leadership skills, social-emotional wellness, and social skills.

“We’re trying to encourage the students who come [to the Summer Fun Program] to become ambassadors for our school so that they can be the leaders in the school for next year. When they leave the program they’re going to receive a shirt that says JMS ambassador,” says Terri Webb with a big smile on her face. Her passion for the students and program is very obvious. When the students return they will be asked from day one to step up and emulate the school’s motto, “Jets Exhibit Safe Behavior, Take Responsibility, Show Respect.”

On average, 30 students a day attended the Summer Fun Program. Running from June 10 through July 3 students arrived at JMS at 8 a.m. for breakfast. One of the teachers would share a personal story about their own life which taught them a lesson. Next, students spent at least 20 minutes participating in each of the three activities. After that, they were free to choose which activity they wanted to spend the remainder of their time. The last half hour was spent eating lunch before going home at noon.

Diane Burchett, an art therapist, and Brandi Bugg, Exceptional Educator and a counselor, together led the art therapy program. During one activity students built a family crest that included both their likes and dislikes, then talked about what each part meant to the counselor. Another activity had the kids drawing with sidewalk chalk things they enjoyed or were proud of. This brought out good things about themselves helping boost self-esteem. Sometimes students would come back to this station just to talk to Ms. Burchett or Ms. Bugg.

Kids have lots of energy and this was a summer of fun, so of course, there was a physical activity component to this summer of fun. Physical Education Teacher Chip McCord and Learning Appropriate Behavior Teacher Kyle Jaynes took students through physical activities which centered on cooperative learning or teamwork. Who hasn’t had fun standing in a circle, holding hands, while getting the hula-hoop around the group without breaking hand-holds? It was sometimes hard, but fun with lots of laughter. This and other activities taught students cooperation. These two teachers were clever in noticing who stood out as student leaders and pointed out their actions for others to see.

Exceptional Educator Terri Webb and Math Teacher Darlene Dunaway brought life skills to the students as well as working on their social-emotional wellness. Students learned to follow a recipe and make their own snack, a snack they easily can make at home. They made simple 2-4 step recipes, followed directions and cleaned up after themselves. A doughnut made of green apples, peanut butter and toppings sounds delicious. Making ice cream was a perfect treat in the heat.

The kids played games like Uno, ping pong, air hockey, and foosball. Unlike playing alone on a computer, playing games together was not only fun but brought up important social skills. Webb shares that a lot of the kids “don’t know how to work together socially,” so these games are teaching that. At first, the kids would point out stupid plays, but by the end of the program, they were instead encouraging each other.

“Social-emotional wellness goes hand in hand, if you’re not emotionally well, you’re usually not socially appropriate,” Webb states. The games taught the socially appropriate way to work together and how to be polite. “When they’re in the room with other students next year, hopefully, they’ll be the ones to be able to say, ‘Hey man, it’s ok, I see what you’re going through, but maybe we can work it out this way.’”

Lessons were taught by examples, activities, stories, and when somebody did something good, it was pointed out, showing compassion and leadership. “In the beginning, we didn’t see it, now we do. We mention these words, we say them, leadership, ambassador, compassion, respectful. They’re stepping up. It’s a learning a process,” Webb again smiling at the promise of these leaders. A lot of the students Webb saw were leaders last year, just not in a good way. She wants the students to use this empowerment for good.

During the first week of fun and games, the students didn’t realize all the leadership skills they would be building. Then the idea of learning to be an ambassador was brought in.

Webb told them, “An ambassador is somebody who comes into an environment and then helps bring peace or helps teach someone else something and that’s what we want you to do with all the kids coming in. You’re going to be the leaders. You guys are going to be those ambassadors, those leaders.” Like a proud mother, beaming, she shares, “They’re turning, and it’s wonderful to watch.”

“And that’s what this program is all about, building leadership, building social-emotional wellness, and letting them know it’s okay to feel certain ways but we have to be able to express” it appropriately, says Webb, hardly able to contain her enthusiasm for what has been accomplished this summer.

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  1. Beverly Reno says:

    This is wonderful. Hook up with Collins and get little sister, big sister little brother, big brother. After school programs older children reading to younger ones. Sharing ideas, learning English and Spanish. Having a famiily nite once a month or every two months with both schools. Include food from different cultures if possible have students in preparation of food. Get Boone County High School students involved with both schools.

  2. Beverly Reno says:

    Another idea is having someone in charge of media, have articles of what students are accomplishing at least once a month. Florence Elementary is in Recorder sometimes 2x a month. This would be good for esteem and proud to be apart of schools.

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