WIESBADEN, Germany - The classroom isn't the first place you might think of for engaged summer fun.

But for more than 150 youths in the Wiesbaden military community, the Department of Defense Dependents Schools' Summer Enrichment Program is where they are challenging one another in online math competitions, discussing the many aspects of media and delving into mysteries.

"The Summer Enrichment Program is intended to give the students a structured place during the summer to learn and have fun," said Kellie Klaver, a seventh-grade science teacher at Wiesbaden Middle School and teacher-in-charge of the Wiesbaden summer school program. "We're all about having a good time.

"The kids love it," Klaver added. "They feel like they're learning about something that's not attached to grades. They're getting an authentic learning experience. … They're running in the gates in the morning."

Klaver said the program, for kindergartners to eighth-graders, is entirely voluntary with students asking to attend and teachers volunteering to work during their summer vacation time. Teachers from both Wiesbaden elementary schools and Wiesbaden Middle Schools are on the teaching staff.

Students attend the program for four weeks for three hours a day.

As part of the Voyager program, students in the older grades this year are learning around the theme "Media Magic" while younger students are focusing on "Mysteries."

"This is a safe, structured environment where the students can learn and have fun," said Klaver. "It's really just a continuation of their daily routine."

"It's a very complete, well thought-out program," said Stephen Springer, one of this year's Summer Enrichment Program teachers. "I think it's outstanding. … It keeps the kids writing and doing math during the summer and they may even be progressing. I see it as a very beneficial program."

Making the program as interactive as possible to keep students fully engaged and enjoying learning is important, Springer said. "I'm very conscious that this is a summer program. … Kids learn a whole lot more when they have choices and can make decisions."

Manuel Villalobos who will be an eighth-grader at Wiesbaden Middle School this year, said he enjoys having the chance to continue studying his favorite subject, math, during the summer months, "because I perform well in it and it's the easiest subject out of all."

"Language arts, math and media are the three main subjects we learn in the summer program," said Ameera Mustafa, who will also be an eighth-grader at Wiesbaden Middle School. "One subject I wish we could study more about is social studies, because I find it very interesting. I really enjoy the fact that I still can learn and refresh my memory on subjects I learned in school in the summertime as well."

"At first I thought that the program was going to be terrible, but as the days passed I began to like it more and more," said Amber Martin. "The asset I like most is that we study media, and go more into depth about it. I really enjoy learning a new subject. I also don't mind giving up three hours of my day to learn about interesting topics and subjects."

While the main goal is to offer students a fun, stress- and assessment-free learning environment, they actually get instant assessment feedback online and from their peers while working through math games and sharing original writing with their classmates.

At the end of each virtual activity, the students take a placement test in order to progress to the next level of math. Students focus on different aspects of math. It varies from conversions of fractions to decimals and subtraction of mixed numbers.

Knowing that their peers online and in the classroom are their competition motivates them to really succeed in each math game, students said. When they get stuck, other classmates and the teachers are more than happy to assist.

The students also hone their vocabulary skills thanks to the focus on media and through working interactively online with fellow students around the world.

"If I had to choose whether I wanted to be taught in the classroom or online, I would choose the classroom because I'm able to take notes and look back at them when it comes to homework," added Mustafa.

After a discussion about the meaning of the word media, students defined it as "connecting, influencing and changing the whole world."

After the program is over, students will still be able to take what they have learned during the summer months and continue to expand their horizons. The benefit of doing most assignments online is that the students can still log on at home and work on the same activities.

And the great thing about summer school -- there is still time left to enjoy some well-deserved weeks off before the new school year begins -- for the students and teachers.

Page last updated Wed July 31st, 2013 at 00:00