Summer academy helps students thrive in math
CHESTERTOWN — It turns out that math — specifically Algebra I — can be the key to success for students as they continue in academia.
As a way to tap into that, Queen Anne’s and Kent counties public schools are working together on a pilot program, Summer Youth Development and Leadership Academy, to strengthen students’ math skills.
“It’s a program that helps kids be reflective thinkers,” said Rob Watkins, supervisor of mathematics for Queen Anne’s County Public Schools. “It helps them think about how to persevere when they start to struggle and really helps them build success.”
A group of 30 rising high school freshmen from Queen Anne’s and Kent counties who will be entering Algebra I next year were invited to the program, which takes place on the Washington College campus.
The students in the program are what Marlo Coppage, a math teacher at Queen Anne’s County High School, described as “bubble kids.” They fall somewhere between the accelerated students and those who need more guidance.
This program, she said, looks to boost them to the top tier while giving them confidence and leadership skills.
“Over the course of the entire program, students receive 60 hours of instruction,” Watkins said.
The camp is based on the Summer Start Academic Youth Development program from Agile Mind. According to a news release, instead of a “math intervention program,” it’s an “intervention for student belief systems and learning environments that can have a powerful and positive effect on student motivation, perseverance and success.”
“We are teaching some math, but it’s different types of skills — skills like persevering through confusion and having the mindset that you can get better, not having the mindset that you just can’t do math because you weren’t born that way, instilling a growth mindset in these kids,” said Matt Carty, a math teacher at Queen Anne’s High School.
“We’re also hoping that they become leaders in the classroom, so when they’re mixed back in with the other ninth graders who didn’t take this summer camp, we’re hoping these kids step up and become leaders amongst the rest of the group,” said Phillip Cygan, a math teacher at Kent County High School.
The day-camp begins with a four-hour session relying on AYD, but Carty said students are not limited to their desks.
“The program itself has a lot of kinetic activities for them to get up and move during the day,” he said. “The program has activities where they get up and do stuff and communicate with one another. That keeps them engaged.”
The instruction also gives students hands-on activities.
Jemima Clark, STEM coordinator and educator at Washington College’s Center for Environment & Society, worked with the program for a week on watershed awareness.
She crafted an experiential learning week involving building aquabots, kayaking Radcliffe Creek and conducting research on the Callinectes.
“All of these tie together as engagement strategies, something for the rest of the camp to build upon, for applications of some of the math and science things that the kids are doing in their morning program,” she said.
The academy doubles as a forensic investigation, which the students will solve by the end of the program.
“The answer isn’t immediately obvious. The kids have to use resources, go find information that’s not just given to them,” Carty said. “They have to become the scientists and the investigators.”
On the last day of the academy, they will present their findings to their peers.
“The interesting part is there is no right answer,” Cygan said. “They’re going to have to try to prove each other wrong based on what they found. It’s taking you into the world of forensic science: You have to prove your point and make everyone believe.”
Mercedes Martin, 14, said she was initially excited for the program, especially with the opportunity to go out on the kayaks and research vessel.
“I’ve liked it a lot. Everything is really exciting; getting off the bus to come here — it’s really something to look forward to,” she said.
So far, her favorite part was constructing “aquabots.”
The students assembled the remote-controlled devices outside of Washington College’s swim center and then tested them in the pool.
“It’s really hands on, a lot to do,” Martin said. “Now that I’ve gotten to see and learn new things, it makes me more looking forward to it every day.”
Bradley Reed, 14, decided to join the program because math isn’t his best subject.
“I knew it would help me in the long run,” he said.
He said that he enjoyed going kayaking the most so far, as he likes being outdoors.
Hailey Cox Pemberton, 13, was nervous the program may be boring, but she said that that hasn’t been the case.
“I think it’s exciting,” she said. She was looking forward to the rope course at Echo Hill and seeing the new “Despicable Me” movie.
“For me, math has always been troubling, tricky for me,” she said. “I think, now that I’m getting the help that I actually needed, it’s a lot easier and I like it more.”
Carty said that the program hides the math within it.
“The math and science is not immediately obvious to the kids; they know they’re doing it but in a fun way,” he said.
Horizons students enjoy a boat ride during a four-day learning excursion to Smith Island.
From left, Hope Judy, Hailey Cox-Pemberton and Matt Carty, Queen Anne’s County High School math teacher, work on assembling an aquabot, a remote-controlled robot, made of PVC pipe, wire, a battery and a propeller. The students first assembled the underwater robots before testing them in the pool at Washington College.