A new summer program has been created at Orono Middle School that focuses more on the social emotional needs of our students while integrating academics into fun and engaging learning opportunities. The program was open free of charge to any student wishing to participate. The program has had a profound impact on students and teachers by modeling, building and strengthening relationships and laying the foundation for the critical learning that awaits us at the start of a new school year.
The program began in the summer of 2021. Orono Middle School teachers and staff have developed and coordinated a unique summer program at Orono Middle School. That year, COVID funding certainly played a key role in launching the program which included the purchase of materials for a wide variety of activities, as well as the creation of a new school-community garden. The program allowed students to choose from a variety of activities offered each day in a heterogeneous group format and each day students received a free healthy bag lunch.
Due to the success of the program and remaining funds, we were fortunate to maintain the same program this summer. Although we had minimal funding for supplies, we were able to use supplies from last summer and/or supplies from our classroom. With one year under our belt, this summer proved to be even more successful with nearly 30 participants each week! We know that summer program funding is typically allocated to students with identified needs in their IEP, however, this program was developed to impact EVERYONE – and that impact was significant! The program addressed students’ social, emotional, mental, and physical needs as well as the application of academic skills and helped many students become more confident and prepared for the school year.
The program was flexible, allowing students to attend at a time that best suits their schedule. Many students were present every day; some did it for 2 weeks and others only a few days. Regardless of when they joined, joining was seamless and students were able to find themselves with different peers in whatever activities they chose to explore. The organizers also made the program Intentional with meaningful learning experiences. The activities were organized and well planned to provide a positive learning experience for each student. The daily choices (3-5 for 3 separate sessions) have been curated to include a wide range of activities and skill level entry points to make the experience fair for all students.
Activities offered during the 5-week program included: fishing, nature walks and hikes, cooperative games, kitchen, gardening, 3d printing, board games, bodybuilding, design + manufacture buttons, hiking in the forest of Bangor City, coding, art projects, engineering challenges, build + paint birdhouses, dissect the owl pellet, theater games/activities/shows. pressed flower projects, design + make comics, reading + comic strip discussion, intramural, volunteer at the Bangor Humane Society, and design + painting springboard for school garden.
Parents were very grateful for the program’s flexibility, structure, and daily activity options. Here are some of their comments:
“He seems eager to go to school in the summer, which is not his usual attitude about it! Thank you for your planning and working with these children, I think this enrichment is excellent.
“Student“Had a great time. So good, in fact, that we’re talking about changing our plans this summer to try and get him to spend more time there, though we’re yet to figure out how that’s possible. But anyway, I hope that says a lot about the great experience you all had there last week!” (She was able to come back for the last 1.5 weeks).
“The main benefit for my child was meeting some of the teachers and students in the Orono school system. She is transferred from the Old City this fall. I think she enjoyed the arts and cooking the most. The biggest benefit has been to boost her confidence for the upcoming school year.
“After strengthening her friendships with her peers during the summer program, she gained the confidence to walk around town alone and with her friends.”
“She was able to do a lot of fun activities while taking her reading lessons”
“I can’t say enough good things about this experience for my daughter. She is excited and confident about going to college now. She has found a new activity that she is passionate about (weightlifting!). . .This was probably the most positive and meaningful experience we have ever had at RSU 26. I can’t stress enough how much we loved this program. She actually skipped a week at a basketball camp that we had already paid to attend, and I decided that was no big deal because she was having such a great experience! »
College students yearn for independence and want to have a say in what they do. They thrive in a place where they feel they belong and have purpose. Grade lines are blurred in the summer program. They’re just kids who have similar interests and/or are eager to try new things. Groups are almost always multigrade. The sessions were designed to foster student independence by completing their own weekly schedule and becoming strong self-advocates when they needed help. Students gained confidence by taking risks and trying new activities. They broke away from their typical peers by having the confidence and sense of security to try new things on their own. Students applied their problem-solving skills in every session, whether adjusting a recipe or taking on an engineering challenge. Students worked with each other to build structures, perform physical tasks, prepare original productions, and solve problems collaboratively. One thing is for sure, “summer school” at Orono Middle School definitely doesn’t mean what it used to be!
Special thanks to Jessica Archer (science teacher) who was the program coordinator and to the teachers who led the various activities, including Deb White (social studies teacher) Julie Anthony (art) Chris Gray (science and social studies) Tracy Deschaine (math) and in education technicians Rob Saintard and Teena Thibodeau. Thanks for all you’ve done!