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Dayton Daily News: STEM, BELL programs keep Mad River students learning

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Published July 25, 2015

The Mad River Local School District knows that without learning opportunities during the summer months, the persistent achievement gap between higher- and lower-income students will continue to grow. That is why the district offers a number of learning opportunities for Mad River learners.

During the summer, students can lose two months of learning; we call that the "Summer Slide." And summer slide after summer slide can lead to kids falling way behind and ultimately make it difficult to graduate. But that doesn't have to mean traditional class time. Summer is an opportunity for hands-on learning and exploration that keeps students engaged and ensures they are ready for class in the fall.

This summer, Mad River students have been given the opportunity to participate in STEM camp and our BELL Summer Learning Program. The week-long STEM enrichment camp is designed to give middle school students an opportunity to explore STEM-related content (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Middle school students explore career opportunities and learn through real world experiences and hands-on activities in both the fields of engineering and digital design. Students utilize state-of-the-art technology used in business and industry throughout the program.

For the engineering session, students design and make prototypes of yo-yo's and model trucks utilizing technology applications such as Solidworks 3D modeling and printing, CADD (computer aided drafting and design), and a laser router. In the digital design session, students study the basics of photography and the visual communication industry as well as computer graphics fundamentals. Campers utilize graphics and video editing software such as Adobe Creative Suite 6 and Final Cut Pro. Students also use DSLR cameras and digital video cameras to take photos and practice with them to design and print their own t-shirts using photographic and heat setting chemicals.

Another summer enrichment opportunity is taking place at Stevenson Elementary where 240 Mad River students are participating in our BELL Program (Building Educated Leaders for Life). Our BELL program aims to improve education outcomes for students by focusing on kindergarten readiness, third grade reading achievement, and the transition from middle to high school.

BELL is a five-week, full-day learning experience that combines academic instruction with fun and hands-on enrichment activities, field trips, and service projects. The program is designed to help scholars gain new academic skills and prepare to enter school in the fall ready to excel.

A day at BELL Summer starts with a healthy breakfast and community-building events. Scholars then transition into classrooms, where certified teachers and trained teaching assistants lead small-group instruction in literacy and math. BELL's staff use research-based curricula aligned to Common Core standards, and apply data from computer adaptive assessments to differentiate instruction according to scholars' unique learning needs.

After lunch, scholars rotate through a series of enrichment courses and activities focused on topics such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), creative arts, and health & exercise. Examples of courses include robotics, art, creative writing, drama, karate, character development, and financial literacy.

Fridays in BELL Summer are "Mentor Fridays," which include field trips to local museums, universities, parks, or other fun destinations, as well as guest speakers and community service projects.

Students who attended both of these programs tell us that their summer experience has been a fantastic experience that they will remember in and out of the classroom for years to come.