Atlantis Summer Program Prepares Students for the Year Ahead
“Kids are learning through play, and they’re having so much fun they don’t even realize they’re learning,” said Brenda Simonis, the grade 3-6 STEM teacher and the Director of Atlantis’s summer program.
This summer, Atlantis offered a summer learning experience with a camp-like vibe in place of its traditional summer enrichment classroom program. The half-day program for rising 1st through 8th graders put an emphasis on academics and social-emotional learning through play.
Each day began with an opening ceremony, just like it would at a traditional summer camp. Students gathered in the courtyard outside the Tritons gymnasium on benches hand-crafted by Simonis and her boyfriend. They sang songs and did cheers, talked about the week’s themes, set goals, and did a group roll call and cheer to make sure everyone was there for the day.
Students then rotated through about a half dozen different camp activities, which included Arts and Crafts, Science and Nature, Animals, Sports, Water Play, Team building. Students had an activity called Instructors Choice which their teachers encompassed math and reading skills with a game. For example, a game of hopscotch, helped students with multiplication, addition and counting skills. Older students wrote about daily activities in their journals to develop writing skills.
The activities were also designed to help students build social-emotional skills. Many students fell behind in this area during the pandemic. At camp, student learned the importance of working together and being a team player through small group work and games. Students in the 6th –8th grade created skits to demonstrate these social emotional skills in real life during our closing ceremonies. Students were given challenges each week to demonstrate a social emotional skill and report back at the end of the day on it.
“Students are learning to talk to each other when problems come up and solve those problems together,” Simonis said. “One of our goals when developing this program was to help students develop confidence in their social-emotional skills so that when they return to school in the fall and have new classmates, they can access those skills to help them be more successful in the classroom.”
Simonis introduced animal play into the summer curriculum. She brought in rabbits, goats, and even two miniature horses from her farm four days a week. Students could sit with the rabbits and goats and learn about connection, body language, and other social-emotional skills.
“It was clear which students had a really strong bond with the animal and which ones did not,” Simonis said. “It is a great teaching tool for children who have difficulty regulating their bodies. They would ask why the bunny was hopping around them? I would always ask, what are you doing now? How is your body responding right now? The child usually says I am standing and moving around. I say, ‘Isn’t that what the bunny is doing?’ Then the child always sits down and relaxes, and then the bunny does too. This helps students become aware of how to regulate their body and emotions.”
Atlantis student Jonah Quiles says his favorite things about camp were playing with the animals, meeting new friends, and burning off his energy through sports.
Lily Moura said she liked showing off her creative side through arts and crafts.
At the end of each day, students came together for the closing ceremony. They talked about what they learned that day and the social-emotional skills they worked on. Simonis said it was a wonderful experience for the kids and believes they will have a great school year ahead.