Re-Engaging for the Fall

In this week’s blog, we continue to celebrate National Summer Learning Week with a post from the Summer Academy Program (SAP) Program Director, Imène Ghernati and student teachers from Catholic and private independent schools.  SAP is a 4 week summer program for 6-8 graders, created as partnership between USF’s School of Education  and Gateway Public Schools. The Summer Academy Program is supported by Engage San Francisco’s continued literacy initiative to address education inequality and summer learning loss.  NOTE: This post has been edited for clarity and condensed for length.

  1. What are the Summer Academy Program’s goals?

The program  has been designed to serve a cohort of 45 students who can explore fun STEM hands-on and project-based learning activities as well as ELA/Arts integrated curriculum over 4 weeks while enjoying some of the peer socialization they missed out on over the past year. Each class is led by two USF student teachers who receive support from USF faculty, experienced Gateway educators, and USF certified lead teachers and supervisors. All student teachers are enrolled in a two-credit course with USF, which focuses on the development of their teaching skills and capacities.  

2. What are the program’s unique strategies?

SAP is about building academic confidence, creativity, self expression and discovering the joy of learning by developing the skills that students need to thrive in schools. In STEM students learn the Design Thinking Process that helps bring their imagination to life and share it with others with the  goal to learn the fundamentals of engineering design by looking at the world around them rather than just learning in a traditional way. In English/Arts integrated curriculum they learn to develop their creativity and collectivist genius. On the daily, they write journal reflections, reviews of books and they draw and write narrative stories.

3. Describe USF student teachers and Gateway Middle School students participating in SAP. 

The majority of our student teachers who are enrolled in our summer program, teach in a Catholic school or a private school during the school year and need a public experience for their CA teaching credential. The teachers  through their academic and professional training, are prepared to value the lives of children regardless of racial, linguistic, socio-economic, religious, or ethnic backgrounds and to work with and value family and school structures. San Francisco’s diverse student population attending SAP have been selected by their teachers and administrators at Gateway MS as students who would benefit the most from an academic summer program.

4. How does SAP meet what middle-school students need in this moment?

Student Teacher Mariah Kelly, teaches rising 9th graders:

“The SAP program at Gateway has met the needs of the students in many ways. The most important need that these students have is just adjusting back to being together as a community. The students have not been in-person since prior to the pandemic. Community builders have been vital to get the students outside their comfort zone and interacting with one another. Another key need that the SAP program has provided the students is engaging them in a curriculum of STEM and ELA activities that helps them challenge themselves appropriately at their own individual levels and needs. For example; my students have been reflecting on language all around them through expressions, lyrics in music, and how they communicate differently from their homes to school. The SAP program has made the students and student teachers grow so much as individuals and as a community!

Student teacher Jacob Walter, teaches rising 7th graders:

“SAP is a way for students from all backgrounds and cultures to build community, extend learning, and find new interests that can later be explored during the regular school year. After a year on Zoom, students are at SAP because they want to catch up on learning or prepare themselves for the next school year. Whatever the reason, the SAP program nurtures all learners and facilitates an environment dedicated to exploring all aspects of a well-rounded education.”

Student teacher Jessica Cruz, teaches rising 8th graders:

The SAP program provides a space for middle school students to obtain the skills needed to transition back into a classroom setting, gain confidence in their application of knowledge and given more one-on-one attention as they acclimate back into an educational in-person learning setting. SAP has been a place where social-emotional learning has occurred and new found subjects, games and activities have been discovered. We aim to expose our students to new friends, and a new engaging hands-on curriculum where learning happens as they are given the freedom to decide what they want to learn each block period. And with both language arts, STEM, and project-based learning at the heart of the program, there is always an activity to entice any type of learner.” 

This year is seen as a pilot that hopes to grow and expand to accommodate more elementary school students and serve more communities in responding to the needs of San Francisco youth. In the future, SAP hopes to find another partner school from The Fillmore / Western Addition such as Rosa Park Elementary or Creative Arts Charter School.

in-person learningNational Summer Learning WeekreadingSan Francisco Unified School DistrictSummer Academy Programsummer learningteachingteaching developmentUSF School of Education

Leo T. McCarthy Center • July 15, 2021

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