BY INDIANA NASH
NISKAYUNA — During summer break from school, some parents (and some teachers) worry that their kids will begin to fall behind academically. Other parents want their kids to continue learning unique skills during their time out of the academic year.
The Niskayuna Summer Enrichment Program addresses both of these concerns. School district spokesman Matt Leon said the program began in 2014 out of a community desire for more programs. Throughout the month of July, several classes on a variety of topics were offered to students, most of them taught by Niskayuna teachers.
Many of the courses offered unique opportunities for students to learn new skills or further develop others.
The students in Stephanie Graseck’s classes learned computer science skills that Graseck believes students should be able to learn from a young age, but often don’t.
“When I was in school, I was working on programing when I was in elementary school and I think it should be available in the schools today,” said Graseck, a math teacher at Niskayuna High School.
In the Niskayuna school district and many others, computer science courses aren’t offered until students reach the high school level.
Many of the students who attend the courses say their parents gave them the idea or signed them up for the course.
But most seem to enjoy the work and spending time with friends they may not have seen since the end of the school year.
In one of Graseck’s website design sessions, one student said his website was based on his interest in martial arts.
“I began when I was 6, but it wasn’t until I got my black belt two years ago that I got really into it,” said Aurojit Chakreborty.
His website was a compilation of everything martial arts-related.
“It’s another language and it’s learning the thought process behind that that’s important,” Graseck said. She encouraged students to design their websites around their hobbies or interests to make the lessons more applicable.
At another session of the program, middle school students were honing some of their creative writing skills.
Carol White, another teacher at Niskayuna High, led the class.
“This is my first year doing the Summer Enrichment Program, but it’s been great. I’m usually with high school-aged students so it’s nice to teach middle schoolers,” White said.
Throughout the weeklong session, the class learned about various aspects of creative storytelling, including character development, voice and syntax.
White pulled in excerpts from famous stories and novels to illustrate how other authors utilized these writing tools and then had the class practice in a unique way.
“We’ve created a village,” White said, smiling.
The group worked to create a variety of characters, some that were completely unrealistic and others were drawn from pop culture (such as Donald Trump and Lebron James).
The group decided on a basic plot line and then branched off to develop different characters.
White encouraged the students to “show don’t tell” within their writing.
Kelly Linehan, an educational consultant, led a group of incoming seniors in a crash course on college applications.
“The structure is basically an application boot camp, with the final goal being a finished college application. The students that took this course will not be filled with stress about the college process in their senior year. They will be able to walk into the high school this fall with almost all their work done,” Linehan said.
During the course, Linehan had the students work on case studies where they played the role of admissions officers and had to pick the best college application to see how difficult it can be to chose between various students and to show the importance of making their applications stand out.
The course also taught students what to look for in a college.
“When researching colleges always look up the freshman retention rate, which indicates how many students return to the college for their sophomore year. This measure of satisfaction with a college is often overlooked,” Linehan recommended.
Among some of the other sessions offered were: Spanish immersion classes, computer aided design and math literacy.
BY INDIANA NASH