Eighth grade students in the district have been participating in a fun, educational program to prepare for the upcoming academic and social challenges in high school. As part of the four-week Summer Bridge Program, 16 students are engaged in service learning, mindfulness, social interaction and teambuilding activities.
“We see glimmers of positive energy and work ethic among many of the students,” said Mary Donnelly, the Summer Bridge Program coordinator and district English chairperson. “Students have already started opening up and building relationships with teachers, and a few students who indicated to us that they were afraid to come back to school already appear to have shaken off some of that anxiety.”
The Summer Bridge Program, which is now in its fifth year, has evolved over the years to adjust to the unique needs of students. They meet four days a week and participate in three, one hour-long instructional blocks – the Genius Hour, humanities, and math and science – as well as weekly special programming designed to increase their self-efficacy through service learning.
During their Genius Hour, the students have delved into designing their own service-learning projects to collect donations for local community organizations, including the Bellmore-Merrick Community Cupboard, the Bideawee Animal Shelter, the Merrick Fire Department and the YMCA. Many students have moved on to their next independent reading novel in humanities, and they’ve been discussing the benefits of sleep and meditation and gaining time management skills to improve their focus and concentration. As part of the math and science instruction, the students are practicing their calculator skills and learning about the importance of making hypotheses in science experiments.
Throughout the summer, the students tour each of the three high schools they will attend in September to meet with building administrators in a small-group setting. In addition, they participated in an interactive paint lesson to create colorful cityscapes. The activity fostered an appreciation for creative expression, strengthened their fine motor skills, promoted confidence and emotional well-being, and improved their socialization skills.
Donnelly said the students and staff were delighted to connect in person.