Students Get a Lesson in Leadership

Atlantis summer program offers Leadership Academy for students in grades 6-8

Rising sixth grader Jenayra Tumax loves math, so when she was asked to come up with a math activity to do with first graders during Atlantis’s summer program she got right to work. She did some research and found an addition activity involving ladybugs. She helped the first graders make ladybugs, using pom poms for the spots, and then made math equations to add the pom poms.

“Jenayra did that entire activity on her own with the students,” said Atlantis seventh-grade teacher Leah Pluto. “As a teacher, I love seeing students take initiative. The younger kids responded really well to Jenayra.”

Jenayra was a part of the Leadership Academy made up of incoming sixth, seventh, and eighth graders at Atlantis’s four-week summer camp. The program was supervised by seventh-grade teachers Leah Pluto and Samantha Nicholas.

At the start of camp, each student completed a survey on their interests and what grade students they wanted to work with. They were assigned to first through fifth-grade groups to work with throughout camp.

“Since the older students did not get to choose whether to take part in the Leadership Academy, we made an extra effort to make sure students enjoyed the experience,” explained seventh-grade teacher Samantha Nicholas. “Some of our returning students asked to work with the students they worked with last summer. They were able to build on the relationships they started last summer, which was cool.”

The leadership academy got its start last year and continues to grow and develop.

“The program has evolved a lot since its inception last summer and is really focused on helping students develop strong leadership skills,” Pluto said. “Over these four weeks, we saw the Leadership Academy students build self-confidence and self-esteem. They eagerly took on the responsibility given to them and acted as role models for the younger students, helping them and guiding them throughout the day.

While some students seem to be born leaders, most will develop leadership skills over a lifetime. Teaching these skills at an early age will help prepare students for future success.  In addition to building self-confidence and self-esteem, leadership skills make children better problem solvers, more effective communicators, and teamwork and collaboration work collaboratively with others.

Students spent two days a week with their assigned groups. They accompanied the groups to daily activities and got to pet the bunnies, do arts & crafts, and make music, so they still got the full summer camp experience in addition to the added responsibility of being a leader. On Fridays they met with either Pluto or Nicholas to talk about how the week went. They received feedback from the grade level teachers and shared what they thought worked and what they could improve on the following week.

“We wanted to make sure this was a learning experience for the students, so the reflection time at the end of the week was very important,” said Brenda Adams, the grade 3-6 STEM teacher and the director of Atlantis’s summer program. “Students left with an understanding of what they bring to the table, what they’re good at, and what they could improve on.”

“Each student has different strengths, and it’s been interesting to see the different approaches they took with their groups,” Pluto said. “Seventh grader Zoe Tavares spent the four weeks making a play with her fifth-grade group rather than creating a daily activity.”

Outside of the grade level groups, the Leadership Academy students learned about different leadership styles and personality traits. Students and their teachers took a series of quizzes, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality assessment. By answering a series of questions, the test helps people understand how they take in information and make decisions. There are 16 different MBTI personality types. Of the 20 students in the Leadership Academy, only three had matching personalities. The students and teachers compared their individual results and were able to identify traits they had in common. Nicholas said everyone enjoyed the exercise, and some students were able to relate better to their teacher when they realized they shared some of the same traits.

“Our hope is that these students will return summer after summer and continue to hone their leadership skills, so by time they enter ninth grade they are the leaders of their grade and they can step up to the plate,” Pluto said. “They’re going to grow up and do great things.”


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