Editor's Note: This reflection piece was submitted by Deliana Park. If you would like to contribute an article to be published on Patch, please send submissions to Cerritos-Artesia Patch Editor MarieSam Sanchez at email@example.com
This summer, I was privileged to coordinate the Bridge to Middle School Program, a month-long pilot learning community designed to increase students’ academic and personal success. Graduating sixth grade students in the ABC Unified School District, from two elementary school students, Hawaiian Gardens and Furgeson Elementary Schools, were all invited to participate in the learning community, which took place on Ferguson Elementary campus in July. Twenty-eight students focused on building their math skills through hands-on activities and communicating effectively their stories through digital storytelling, working closely with teachers Stephanie Machado, Lena Bradshaw, Eric Gutierrez, and Connie Park. Over a dozen students from Whitney High School's National Honor Society and Latino Club also assisted daily as teaching assistants and forged friendships with these entering junior high students.
I am proud to share that the students in this program improved their math skills over the course of mere four weeks; the students who took the pre and post assessments from the Cal State Fullerton’s Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project on average improved their scores by 3.2 on a 40-question exam. In fact, over half of the students improved by 5 or more questions on the final exam. The majority of the students reported on an anonymous survey that they felt that this summer program was beneficial and all reported that math is fun to learn.
All students also participated in a closing ceremony where Superintendent Dr. Mary Sieu, Mayor Michael Gomez, Council Member Reynaldo Rodriguez, ABC School Board President Olympia Chen, parents, administrators, and teachers attended to celebrate the students and their work. Plans are in the works to fundraise for the upcoming 2013 summer program and expand to include an additional elementary school. Below is one student volunteer’s perspective on the experience:
Rushik Gandhi, 9th grade at Whitney High School
The transition from elementary to middle school is never an easy one. Not only are you going from having one teacher to having six, but also there are also many social changes that come with being in school with kids older and more mature than you. With all these changes, kids begin to go off track by not being prepared for the difficulties that come with being in junior high.
To help this transition, Whitney High School teachers teamed up with Hawaiian Garden elementary schools to give kids a “bridge” to middle school so that they do not feel overwhelmed once the school year starts, and are more confident in their work. [Former] Whitney High School counselor, Ms. Deliana Park, thought up this program while she was at a seminar trying to help bridge the gap between high school and college. She decided to apply this idea to the bridge between elementary and middle school. The program was designed to give kids fundamental skills in math to help them be better prepared for the rigorous math courses that they will face in middle school, and high school. Not only did they learn how to do math, but they also learned the thought process that should be used when trying to solve a math problem.
As a student helper in the program, I was able to see the great strides these students had made in a matter of just four short weeks. The idea behind having student helpers was to one, to give more attention to each child addressing their personal needs, but also to give the students someone that could be comfortable talking to about any concerns they have about going into middle school. Many of the student helpers grew up and went to the elementary schools that we were helping, so they were had first hand knowledge on what it was like to make that transition. Being able to work with the kids in small groups also gave me the opportunity to get to them and help them overcome troubles that they were having.
It was truly a wonderful experience working with kids with so much potential, and watching them blossom into confident math students. One of the main reasons I think the program kept kids interested was all of hands on activities that students did to help reinforce the skills that they were learning. The two math teachers for the program, Ms. Bradshaw and Ms. Machado put together fun games that not only let kids practice their skills, but also let them have fun while doing it. There were also many hands on aspects used in the classroom to help the kids better understand the math problems that they were solving. With all the activities that were done by the students, it was more like having fun then actually learning, which was the whole point of the program.
Though the program is now over, the skills that the students learned during those four weeks are tools that will help them be prepared for middle school and anything else that they do.