St. Vrain Valley School District began its summer with a boom with Project Launch — the district’s summer extended school program.
Thousands of students across the district began their extended summer learning on Monday. The Project Launch program allows elementary and middle school students to “strengthen their reading and math skills over the summer,” the district’s website states. Students will also be able to participate in STEM activities.
Students at Columbine Elementary lined up to be greeted by their summer teachers. According to Principal Audrey Seybold, about 95% of the students, who attend Columbine Elementary this school year, signed up for the school’s Project Launch.
Rosa Berumen, the mother of soon-to-be second grader, Marissa, and soon-to-be sixth grader, Hector, was excited to sign her children up for the program. Both of her children have attended Project Launch since they were old enough.
Berumen said her children are always excited to attend the summer program because it “gives them something to do” as well as participate in their favorite activity — making tye-dye t-shirts.
“It’s fun for them,” she said. “They learn through playing.”
In a previous summer, her daughter learned how fast an avalanche can travel by playing with balls and other building materials. Even now, Marissa asks how fast her parents are driving the car by asking “is it faster than an avalanche?”
The last year was difficult for the Berumen family. Rosa works at a local daycare facility and had to reduce her hours in order to teach her two children.
“It was hard … but we survived,” she said.
She eventually returned to work part-time but still struggled to help her children with their work after her shifts were complete. She said they got through but are happy that it is over.
Despite the challenges of the last school year, Rosa was encouraged by the excitement her children expressed when they lined up for classes Monday morning. She hopes the summer will offer them more opportunities to make new friends.
This year’s Project Launch is the first time preschool students were able to participate at Columbine and Northridge elementaries due to a Mile High United Way grant which offered funding to help with childcare and learning.
“It’s just amazing because we are just giving those kiddos a little extra time to have some instruction and learn friendship skills and all of those things ahead of coming into kindergarten,” Seybold said about adding the preschool classes to the program.
School during the summer can often carry a negative stigma that students were not able to keep up during the regular school year. Project Launch is designed to help students excel from wherever they are, be it at the top of their class or overcoming developmental setbacks.
By shrinking class sizes, teachers are able to focus on the skills in math and literacy that students need or want to build by providing more one-on-one learning, Seybold said.
In fact, students will get a sneak peek at material to be covered in the 2021-22 school year, giving them more confidence heading into the next school year.
“We want every student to be successful and in this case, it really helps solidify all the things they have been doing and gives them the confidence and extra boost in moving forward so that when they arrive in August it is not reteaching (last year’s curriculum.) We really can take all those foundational skills that students learn and boost them into the next level,” Seybold said.
Seybold and her staff spent several months organizing and planning lessons for this year’s Project Launch at Columbine Elementary. They created camp-like themes to keep students engaged in all aspects of learning. This week was Harry Potter week and students were able to learn about the “magic” of UV light, Seybold said.
Setting learning into camp-like themes makes learning exciting and fun, inspiring students to want to be there, Seybold said.
While the learning themes are fun, Seybold and her staff felt it was important to continue building on skills that are taught during the school year and keeping the curriculum as consistent as possible.
“I just want students to foster that continued sense of wonder and continue on their path of learning. It’s really an adventure and it just doesn’t stop at the school walls, it doesn’t just go away when you go home, it’s just fun to continue that path of learning,” Seybold said.