This summer, close to 90 students are enrolled in a camp that is designed to help them improve their reading skills in an adventure format. Called Adventure Academy, the Franklin Special School District is prepared to move struggling readers forward in a fun camp-like setting. One group of fifth-grade students will practice wilderness survival skills as they read the novel, My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George.
While the novel follows the travails of a boy who runs away from home to live in the Catskill Mountains, science teachers Patty Littlejohn and Michelle Little will help the students replicate the survival skills they read about. “In one part of the book, the boy has to start a fire to boil water, so our students will be given flint and steel and they will also learn how to start a fire with natural elements,” said Academy Director Debbie Carroll. “The novel describes the boy finding, cooking and eating mussels, so our kids will try their hand at cooking mussels.”
The students will also identify edible plants as well as try their hand at more technologically advanced activities, such as digital photo journaling, and writing activities.
Adventure Academy began last year when the district recognized a need to expand its summer programs to provide rich learning experiences for students who struggle with grade-level proficiency in reading.
Low student-teacher ratios enable teachers to spend one-on-one time with each child. The Academy strives to provide experiential learning opportunities. “During the Adventure Academy, teachers work with small groups of students to reinforce reading and language arts skills through activities incorporating hands-on learning,” Carroll said.
Students attending Adventure Academy are rising second- through fifth-grade English language learners and English-speaking students who have the potential for solid academic gain. Students are recommended for the Academy by their classroom teachers and enjoy the two-week camp environment. “In fact, one mother said that her child got up on Saturday and asked if she could go to school,” Carroll said.
The staff includes certified teachers, a media specialist for library checkout and Accelerated Reader testing, a nurse, and a full time administrator.
This year’s Academy is June 11-22 from 8:00-12:00 at Franklin Elementary School. Transportation is provided and the program is made possible by federal grants and local funding. Teachers are paid through the state’s extended contract program.