Sponsors visit STEM programs aimed at fighting summer learning loss

Published on Wednesday, 2 August 2017 22:37
Written by Skyler Frazer

Staff Writer

NEW BRITAIN - Sponsors that help fund the school district’s summer learning programs got a firsthand look at where their money goes during two informational sessions Wednesday.

First, representatives from the American Savings Foundation, United Way, The Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, members of the New Britain Coalition for New Britain’s Youth and others toured New Britain High School to observe students participating in XTREME.

XTREME, which stands for Excellence Through Real-world Experiences and Maximizing Energy, is an extension of the district’s Summer Enrichment Experience program. While SEE is geared toward elementary age students, XTREME brings together students who have completed grades 6, 7 and 8 with professionals from the school district, peer mentors and local community-based organizations. XTREME focuses on STEM based learning - science, technology, engineering and math.

Similar to SEE, the program is designed to help fight summer learning loss by integrating math and science into a full-day program.

“We have seen the success with SEE. We have the data to support that our youngest learners are more engaged. They’re more engaged in the summer, which goes into the school year,” School Superintendent Nancy Sarra explained to a room of sponsors before they took their tour. “We know that if we keep them in the summer … we can change their trajectory for learning and staying engaged in school and graduating on time.”

Students in the XTREME program are split into four teams, each focused on a different learning program. Students were allowed to select which course they wanted to take at the beginning of the program, program coordinator Jen Wright explained.

“I think that’s helped us retain students this year. They knew what they were getting into and knew what they were coming for, and it’s been a good fit,” Wright said of letting students select their programs.

The group of funders visited Team 2, which is run with the help of community partner New Britain ROOTS. After learning about the use and importance of bugs and insects throughout the world - students were given a chance to eat the critters Wednesday morning.

“They taste like nothing!” multiple students exclaimed after tasting them.

Joey Listro, executive director of New Britain ROOTS, said that he thinks connecting kids to what they eat has multiple benefits for their learning.

“Food is a really engaging way to teach kids how to cook, or if we’re gardening it can teach them skills in constructing a garden,” Listro said.

The ROOTS representative said that having students grow, harvest and cook their own food teaches them lifelong skills. Team 2 also does activities in the school’s greenhouse, which features an aquaponics system - which grows plants in water fertilized and purified by fish.

“We’re making them healthier by teaching them to use healthy ingredients,” Listro told The Herald.

Other teams had different focuses: Team 4 was working with robotics and Team 3 was building bridges when the groups were visited.

State Rep. William Petit, R-New Britain, visited New Britain High School representing the Petit Family Foundation, which has supported summer learning programs in the city for years.

“I think they’re critically important to, number one, help prevent summer slide - kids backtracking in the summer in terms of math skills, thinking skills and reading skills,” Petit said. “I think it’s important to expose kids to, in this case science, a variety of areas that they otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to. It gets them excited about the applications of science.”

Following the tour of the XTREME program at NBHS, sponsors and community partners moved to Gaffney Elementary School to check out what younger students are doing in the district’s SEE program.

Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at sfrazer@centralctcommunications.com.

Posted in New Britain Herald, General News, New Britain on Wednesday, 2 August 2017 22:37. Updated: Wednesday, 2 August 2017 22:39.