This article was written by BenitoLink intern Marisa Sachau. Intern Juliana Luna contributed to this report.
Typically, summer school is a way to retake failed courses or to get ahead of the pack. But school districts within San Benito County have been keeping kids in classrooms by exposing them to activities such as field trips and art programs.
Hollister School District used two school sites for its summer school classes: Hollister Dual Language Academy for migrant summer school and Cerra Vista Elementary for special education.
This year, Patrisia Garcia Martínez is the principal for migrant summer school that runs from June 13 through July 12. She said, “This year our summer school was actually turned into a summer camp and camping was our theme. It’s to give exposure to our students to what other students do during the summer.”
The theme was a little of everything. The kids were given a packet where they were able to create their own summer camp as well as do a different art project every week. Students also did solar cooking where they made solar ovens out of pizza boxes.
There was a camp read-a-thon where students were allowed to wear pajamas and bring blankets and tents to incorporate the camping experience.
“We took students swimming because it’s an important part of that summer camp experience to go to a lake or a pool,” Garcia Martínez said. “San Benito Aquatics actually closed down the pool for that day for the kids to enjoy the pool with their friends.”
The younger students went to the zoo or to Roaring Camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains for a hike.
“Our goal is to reach and serve as many students as possible as we can,” Garcia Martínez said.
This year, students got outside their comfort zone by learning to dance. Teacher Cat Herrera from Forxa Inc. taught the students three dances: one Latin-based dance, one contemporary, and one classical, which they performed in the multipurpose room on campus.
Garcia Martínez said, “The dance actually hits a lot of the requirements for health and fitness as well as mental wellness and then, the art and cultural pride. So it really hit a lot of our migrant requirements and that’s how it was decided.”
Jaynnixa Garcia, 9, said dancing was difficult but fun.
“When you keep dancing, they stick with you,” Garcia Martínez said.
First grade student AJ Romero disagreed with Garcia Martínez, saying learning the dances was not hard. Asked if he was willing to participate again next summer, he nodded.
Abel Gonzales, 5, gave a thumbs up when asked if dancing was fun. His father said Abel would come home and talk about the dances he learned.
Migrant parents in the Parent Advisory Committee were involved in the decision to offer dance to the kids because it’s something they knew the kids would enjoy.
Third grade teacher Vicky Valadez said that students being exposed to dance helps students learn to persevere and work together in order to be successful.
“Our students started by bumping into each other and moving in opposite directions to then cognitively having to focus, track, listen and work hard to be able to present a piece they felt successful with,” Valadez said.
Valadez said she knows the self-confidence students gained from dance will carry over to other aspects of their lives.
“I feel their dance instructors set the bar high and their approach was rigorous and todo corazón,” she said.
Southside School held its migrant summer school for transitional Kindergarten to eighth grade for 22 days this summer compared to the usual 20 that are federally required.
John Schilling, summer school administrator, said, “We run enrichment programs for the kids and an art program that is based on culturally relevant pedagogy, so they do culturally relevant projects within art.”
Art teacher Jennifer Rodriguez focuses on establishing a stronger connection between kids and art. For example, the students learned about the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
There were also field trips, known as extended learning programs, which took students to the Tech Museum in San Jose.
Schilling said, “It’s exposing them to resources within their community, but it’s also founded in a language acquisition goal, so that when students go back into the regular school year, there hasn’t been a lapse in terms of their learning.”
Julie Brantome, a teacher at Spring Grove Elementary who taught summer school for grades 3, 4, and 5, felt this year was more relaxed. Students went on field trips to the Discovery Museum in San Jose, Hartnell College Planetarium and the Tech Museum.
Brantome devoted classroom time to the solar system to tie in with the field trips to the Tech Museum and planetarium. She said her students were prepared and knew what they were looking at when they got there.
Kevin Medeiros, summer school principal at Hollister High School, said his campus offers a life skills program for the students who may have some sort of disability. “That’s a cool program that allows them to get on campus and they get to go on cool little trips throughout the summer,” he said.
The Early Childhood Education Center offered by San Benito County Office of Education has an extended school year program in summer that runs 20 days to help the students retain what they have learned throughout the year. The kids loved participating in water days every Friday. Other fun activities included watching movies and music.
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