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Summer Time Fun not all games

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By Jesef Williams

HEATH SPRINGS – Classic games such as Bingo, checkers and Battleship decorated the gymnasium floor at Heath Springs Elementary School.

Every Tuesday for nearly two months, dozens of students picked which games they would play with their peers. Because of the wide selection, each day could bring a different gaming experience for any given student.

But there was much more going on than board games.

From June through July, Heath Springs Elementary offered the first-ever Summer Time Fun program, which provided recreation and personalized academic tutoring in a fun, laid-back way.

Principal Sheri Watson and other school personnel began discussing the idea for the summer program after studying schoolwide test data that suggested students don't fully retain what they learn from one year to the next.

At the start of the year, teachers often have to go back and reteach material or concepts that some students forgot over the summer.

"They have been working on specific areas of weakness," Watson said about the summer program. "I imagine when they take the (MAP standardized test) in the fall, the scores will match the spring's."

Lots of fun

The Summer Time Fun program was free to all the students. Funded through the school's PTA and community groups, it ran from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., with free lunch in between.

Over the nine weeks, guests included a NFL referee, martial artists and officers with the S.C. Highway Patrol and State Law Enforcement Division.

On the last day of the program, SLED agents landed a helicopter on the school's athletic field. Watson said it was hard for the students to contain their excitement, as they wanted to rush the helicopter before it finished landing.

Many of the participants listed that as their favorite part of the program.

"Seeing the helicopter land – I just liked watching it," said fifth-grader Rachel McKinney.

Over the nine weeks, the student were able to check out books from the visiting Lancaster County Library bookmobile.

A good part of the time each day was spent working on math and reading skills using a computer program called Classworks, which aligns with the MAP test. The program provides detailed assessments of each student's strengths and weaknesses.

Almost 90 students were present on the July 24 session, and each week there were at least 50 participants. For some students, this was a way to get acclimated to a new environment.

For instance, Alex Martin will begin kindergarten this month at Heath Springs Elementary. His mother, Bridget Martin, said Alex didn't miss a day.

"I thought it would help him get familiar with the building," Martin said. "Being here this summer has really gotten him comfortable."

Program success?

Watson said the school will compare data between the group of students who attended the summer program and those who didn't to see whether they're any strong correlations in school performance. She said staff members plan to offer the program again next summer.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152