All about birds: Project-based learning keeps students engaged at the Summer Learning Institute

Story, photo and video by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News

SLI literacy coordinator Erica Hatt shows students a frozen bird as they identify parts of its body.

By the end of the summer, about 300 AAPS students will have not only strengthened their math, science, social studies and reading skills, they’ll know a whole lot about birds.

The Summer Learning Institute is an annual AAPS summer program held at Logan Elementary for incoming second and third graders across the district.

In the past, the focus has been on math and reading. This year, the SLI is divided into two two-week project-based programs that integrate writing, reading, social studies and science.

SLI literacy coordinator Erica Hatt says the program’s partnership with the Leslie Science and Nature Center closely aligns with first and second grade standards and curriculum.

“The students are thinking about birds and how they, as naturalists, can help injured birds,” said Hatt. “They’re engaged in thinking about what they need to know in order to help an injured bird, what parts of a bird are unique to it, and why they can’t survive without those body parts.”

They will also learn about the importance of the Leslie Science and Nature Center, and consider what they can do as responsible citizens of our community to help, she said.

“We’re creating knowledgeable and caring citizens who follow an idea through and feel like they can make a change in the world,” said Hatt.  “Our students are very empathetic, and they want to be a part of a solution. This is why this work is so engaging and motivating. They know that in order to help, they have to know information. This directly motivates them to read, write and talk about the content. It’s all tied together.”

The first part of the day is dedicated to morning meeting (a practice that addresses every student’s need for significance, belonging, and fun), reader’s workshop and writer’s workshop. The afternoon is dedicated to math and project time.

SLI Principal Rose Marie Callahan says she’s excited that the program this summer has added a third session that will focus on fractions for incoming students in grades 4 and 5.  This year’s initial implementation of Fractions Academy will last one week, and it is hoped that the program will grow next year.

Dates for the Fractions Academy are August 8 -August 12. Enrollment has been completed. Students across the district were recommended by their classroom teachers.


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