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Summer Academy Offers Friendship, Fun and Learning

By Dennis McNabb

Summer Academy Offers Friendship, Fun and Learning

Summer break: a term that evokes a dreamy sort of nostalgia, a longing for those carefree days of childhood. Why? Because for roughly three months out of the year, we had relatively little to no responsibility. We could just be kids! We could hang out with friends and family, perhaps take a trip, explore a new hobby, or read a great book. It was a time reserved for relaxation, regrouping, and for some, even reinvention. The possibilities were endless.

But let’s be honest, it was also a time of tedium. Three months was a stretch when taken all at once, and without structure, our minds had a tendency to wander, to lose focus. We forgot some of what we’d worked so hard to learn during the school year. That’s why Summer School is and has always been such a fantastic stopgap. In particular, with regards to the program developed over the last couple of years here at the Oregon Trails School District, local middle school kids are now being given the opportunity to see friends, have fun, and simultaneously keep their minds sharp by exploring new and exciting topics.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Josh Kanable, the Life Science teacher at Cedar Ridge Middle School and an enthusiastic leader of the program. Josh said they’ve been fortunate the past two years to have enough grant money to pay for the busing, so the program has been completely free for the kids. Teachers were offered an open curriculum and given free rein during the application process to produce an amazing variety of classes: they have risen to the occasion. From Engineering to Potpourri to Flower Gardening to Outdoor Sciences: the kids have had no end to the variety of interesting and educational subjects to investigate.

One of the most exciting and unique aspects of the program is the hands-on approach to learning, something that can’t always be provided in a standard classroom setting. Josh, for example, had the privilege of taking his kids to a multitude of parks and preserves in the area: Wildwood Park, Oxbow Park, Salmon River Road, and Eagle Fern Park, among others. They hiked down the Sandy River Trails and visited a salmon habitat restoration project hosted by Matt D’Angelo on the Zigzag River system. They saw live adult Spring Chinook jumping from the Zigzag River, half a dozen deer wandering around Oxbow Park, and received a physics lesson skipping rocks across the Sandy River.

Josh stated he was genuinely grateful for this opportunity, given the fact that only about 10% of his students had ever been to the parks he took them to. He went on to say that he did not expect them all to put down their phones and suddenly become nature enthusiasts, but if a few learned to appreciate sticking their feet in the river, and staring up at the beautiful trees, if even for a moment, then maybe he’s planted a seed. Pacific, one of Josh’s students stated, “l had an awesome time in this class. One of my favorite parts was learning to play the board game Wingspan with my friends. I also enjoyed putting my feet in the water and relaxing by the different rivers. I learned how to identify different types of trees by how the bark and leaves look. Overall a really fun class.” Another student, Julio, added, “In this class I learned that all things in the world have a role to play in ecosystems. I learned to skip rocks and that life is a cool thing.”

This year, The Summer Academy ran for two weeks: from July 31st - August 3rd, and from August 7th - August 10th, with two offered classes per day. If the district is able to procure funding again next year and continue the program, make sure to get your kids involved. It’s an opportunity not to be missed!

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