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Posted: Sunday, July 15, 2012 12:00 pm

Summer sessions keep math, reading, science and sign language skills sharp

By Chris McGuinness

Killeen Daily Herald

Heather Pauly said it didn't take long to see which students had kept up with their studies over summer vacation when they returned to school.

"It became very apparent which ones didn't open a book at all," she said.

Pauly is one of four certified teachers working at the Boys & Girls Club of Copperas Cove, running classes that help children stay sharp and close gaps in learning over summer vacation.

Thanks to a $150,000 grant from the state's Office of Justice Programs, the Cove organization now runs summer "clubs" for reading, math, science and even sign language.

"The idea is to try and lessen some of the gap in information for students going from one grade to the next," said Michelle Washington, the club's branch director. "For students who are maybe behind where they need to be academically, this gives them the chance to catch up."

The classes are run daily between 8 and 11 a.m., and each class or "session" runs for one hour. Washington said the idea initially started as a homework club held during the school year, but was expanded to include the summer classes.

"We really wanted to focus on academic success," Washington said.

The activities in each class vary depending on the subject, but many utilize hands-on learning. Students in the science club worked on a project building small windmills. Students in Pauly's math club sometimes play educational board games.

"My goal is to make it fun, and not make it feel like a classroom," said Pauly, who also teaches a reading club. "We wanted to make (the classes) a non-threatening environment where the kids can feel comfortable trying to improve their skills, no matter what level they're at."

Jsanean Mark, who also runs a math class for the program agreed with Pauly.

"You want to keep the atmosphere fun and interesting," said Mark, who is a certified teacher at Haynes Elementary School in the Killeen Independent School District. "I try to switch the activities up, and have different things for them each day."

That approach seems to be working. Caleb Henderson, an 8-year-old preparing to go into the fourth grade, not only said he enjoyed the math and reading sessions, but acknowledged that what he was learning would likely help when he returns to school.

"It's really fun getting to play a lot of games and learning," he said. "I think I'll be better at math and reading when I go to school again."

Other Boys & Girls Club locations in Killeen and Lampasas are running similar programs, Washington said.

Her branch's classes, especially the science club, have become popular, with many of the children asking to participate.

"Sometimes, it's their parents who want them to attend, other times our staff will refer kids who we think could use the help," said Washington. "We have a lot of kids who are excited and ask to participate."

This summer, Washington said more than 30 children per day participated in the math, reading and science session, and 15 to 20 participated in the sign language classes.

She said the club hopes to extend the program into the school year.

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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