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Posted at 11:45 AM ET, 07/14/2010

Cool Summer Class: 'Boot camp' revisited

By Valerie Strauss

I've published a few posts on some interesting summer classes. One was about learning math by solving mysteries, like Sherlock Holmes, and another involved learning reading skills alongside a dog.

Here's another entry, this about classes at the Washington Jesuit Academy in Northeast D.C., where students attend a mandatory seven-week summer program. The academy is an all-boys middle school for young men from economically disadvantaged backgrounds from the Washington region. The students are in school for 11 months of the year and 12 hours a day.

Here’s what Headmaster Joe Powers told me about the summer classes:

"During our summer, the sixth, seventh and eighth grade students participate in a social emotional developmental class.

"The sixth grade course is called 'Boot Camp.' While our course is not as tough as the real military Boot Camp, it is designed to teach the boys in small group settings and get them prepared for the rigors of the upcoming school year.

"They focus on skills like organization, how to resolve conflicts with peers, how to communicate with adults and how to ride public transportation. In addition they do a unit on empathy and develop an understanding of what it means to 'walk in another man’s shoes.'

"The seventh graders participate in a course called 'Great Expectations.' This class was created by one of our teachers in response to a need for our boys to develop a stronger sense of who they are and how to set expectations and goals. The class focuses on self reflection, goal setting and helps the students become more aware of who they are and what they can do with their lives. One of the projects in this class to to create a self portrait that each young man presents to his classmates as a way to help describe himself to his peers.

"The eighth grade students participate in a class called 'Think.' This class has been designed to advance the critical thinking skills of the students in the eighth grade. The boys work daily to problem solve different scenarios in small groups settings. This class was once taught as a basic 'test prep' course to get them ready for the upcoming high school standardized testing.

"We have partnered with Junior Achievement for this class as well. Our work with Junior Achievement has helped bring more financial literacy awareness to the boys and entrepreneurial skills. In one recent class the boys were working on developing a company and ways they can bring more jobs to the area. Think allows them to further their reading, writing and math growth in a setting where they can wrestle with current issues and develop their critical thinking skills.

"These classes are taught each day during our seven-week summer program. We know that reading, writing and math is important, but these classes, which focus on social emotional and critical thinking development are just as important. It is a great opportunity for us to help the boys develop their "right brain" thinking.

"I overheard one of the boys going into his Great Expectations course the other day, calling it his "fun" class.

"See, summer classes can be fun and meaningful.

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By Valerie Strauss  | July 14, 2010; 11:45 AM ET
Categories:  Student Life  | Tags:  boot camp, cool summer classes, interesting classes and summer, jesuit academy, social emotional development, summer school classes, washington jesuit academy  
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Yes, it may be good. But it doesn't help them with test scores, only with real life. And its only test scores that matter!

Posted by: jlp19 | July 14, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Twelve hours a day? Aren't there some coal mines they could be sent into? Too bad child labor laws only apply to kids who are getting paid.

Posted by: berniehorn | July 15, 2010 12:15 AM | Report abuse

Aren't "organization, how to resolve conflicts with peers, how to communicate with adults and how to ride public transportation" the skills that used to be taught in kindergarten? They also used to teach listening and memory skills through games like "Simon Says," "Mother, May I?" and "Warmer, Colder." Now we make them do academic work all day, some school eliminate recess or hire "recess coaches" to tell the kids what to do and do the organizing for them, and then then complain that high school students can't follow directions, remember anything, or make any sensible decisions for themselves.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | July 19, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

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