Nothing will make a kid more nervous than the thought of freshmen year at a new, foreign high school. And nothing will make that kid groan more if you tell them they have to go to summer school. But a combination of both? Blasphemy.
However, Weston Collegiate Institute is aptly proving to defy these odds by creating a welcoming and stimulating summer school invitation for incoming grade nines.
The STEM Summer Academy is a brand new summer school program offered to inbound WCI students, with the goal to make the transition smooth and engaging. Conceived from within Weston itself, this program is the first of its kind to be introduced in TDSB history – ever.
Students attending the program will be exposed to a number of different classes the high school offers: media, physical education, several STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) components, and General Learning Strategy classes (GLS), all in one day of summer school. Throughout the day, the students rotate classes; the aim being they don’t become bored concentrating on solely one subject, as compared to a typical full day summer school course.
By allowing them the time to adapt during the month, students are given a head start to tackle navigating through WCI by themselves, and will hopefully clear up the strange layout of odd-and-even classrooms and bathrooms on opposite sides of the building.
In addition to adapting to WCI climate, the STEM Summer Academy emphasizes developing a healthy mind, healthy lifestyle, and an overall well-rounded character. Students are able to build relationships that will definitely last into their first year of high school.
STEM students working on their “How to Survive Grade Nine” videos.
Examples of activities include robotics, such as building the robots and programming traffic light controls, and filming short How-to-Survive-Grade-Nine videos in their media classes. Students and teachers have also collaborated to create smoothie recipes and then purchased the ingredients at the local No Frills for smoothies in class. The GLS classes, which are typically longer individual courses, have been broken up into separate Math and English components.
“Once the students leave, our goal is to also make sure they’ve also kept up with their literacy,” says Ms. Blair, the principal of Weston Collegiate Institute, who served a significant role in implementing the STEM Summer Academy. “If you look at the teachers, they’re really well-suited for the program itself.”
A particularly competitive game of dodgeball.
It’s true – selected teachers all possess credentials to teach in subjects out of their norm, thus offering the students with a truly interesting learning experience.
And of course, the students will receive a full credit upon graduation.
But why STEM?
“Going into high school, you start doing tech with cars, and science with various experiments – but how do they fit together? The students don’t see it, and we as staff don’t make good connections all the time. So what happens is that we need to take an integrated approach of STEM,” Ms. Blair states. “When you really look at the world and all the scientific advancements happening, especially in the field of medicine, it just makes sense to teach it in school.”
It would also help if your principal had masters in the science field too.
Moreover, the STEM program won’t be isolated to just summer courses – Ms. Blair plans to have a STEM club implemented during the school year where members could meet once or twice a week to build robots and engage in other STEM activities.
Ms. Blair stresses that they’re still testing the waters and working over hiccups in the program, being that this is the debut year of the course. Via flyers sent home and phone calls to parents, only feeder schools in the area were informed that this program was open. Yet despite the fresh introductions and fairly reserved one-week advertising period, the STEM Summer Academy was able to attract a large amount of students, as compared to regular summer school programs offered by the TDSB.
After reviewing the results of this summer, WCI plans to make the program huge during open houses and future visits to middle schools the following school year.
Students participate in a reflective activity during their GLS.
“I’ve been in every single STEM class,” Ms. Blair recalls and smiles fondly. “I’ve been in a culminating video, interviewed for another culminating activity, in the gym, and in all their other classes. It’s important for me to get to know the students so that every STEM student can identify me as their principal. It makes for a comfortable environment – almost like a family.”
My own trip to volunteer within the program gave me an inside glimpse into how my future Weston peers were enjoying the program. The kids were excited, cracking jokes, participating in gym activities, and making me happy to even be at school after a grueling three weeks of summer school physics. It’s certainly undeniable that the STEM Summer Academy will introduce many ambitious and excited freshmen and freshwomen into Weston hallways.
Applications will be opened upon acceptance in WCI.
This post was brought to you by Weston King Neighbourhood Centre (2017 Weston Road) and Mount Dennis Neighbourhood Centre (1269 Weston Road) responding to those in our community who are coping with economic or social barriers. Visit us at www.wknc.ca