Ring Lardner Middle School combats learning loss with summer program

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, July 26, 2023

NILES —  A local school district is keeping middle school students engaged as a new school year approaches.

Niles Community Schools is hosting its annual Middle School Camp for all middle school students in the district. 

This camp, currently in its second session, runs from 8:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. every Monday through Friday until Thursday, August 10 at Ring Lardner Middle School, where the students – both general education and special education – spend time focusing on math, science and English.

Another program designed to combat learning loss, the camp gives students the opportunity to spend time with their friends and enjoy the summer, all while staying engaged with fun, interactive learning activities.

Makiyra Holiday, who is entering seventh grade this fall, said her favorite learning activity was the “paper tower game,” which asks teams to build the tallest possible tower that can support a heavy weight using only paper.

“I liked the competition,” she said.

“We have some sixth graders that are doing concepts to get them ready for seventh grade that they’ll see right away, like integers,” said Instructor Michelle Ignowski. “At the same time, we’re doing a lot of remediation for some very basic skills that they need to do more complicated math concepts. We try to build that base so that once they start school, they are much more confident and feel like there aren’t those gaps.”

Ignowski believes the confidence built during summer camp will go a long way toward ensuring the students start the coming school year on track.

“Their minds are going and they’re interacting and they’re learning, so you haven’t really had this three month gap; They had a shorter gap. So when they start school, they really are kind of hitting the ground running.”

Anthony Kuhn, an incoming seventh grader, is hoping to take the skills he’s learning to help him improve his Spanish.

“I want to learn more words than my mom, so I try to know more Spanish than her,” he said. “My goal is basically trying to learn more English.”

Kuhn said his favorite class so far is English, where students are currently reading “Freak the Mighty,” a young adult novel by Rodman Philbrick.

Amy Santos, who is teaching the English course, has enjoyed connecting with the students.

“I’m hoping that they connect with us and each other and make friends and also be able to build their reading skills,” said English teacher Amy Santos. “We spend a lot of time reading and discussing the books so they understand them and get some more vocabulary to help them with their next school year.”

Tom Tesenberg, a history teacher at Niles High School, is teaching science at the middle school camp. One of the projects his students will be working on is creating “eco spheres,” sealed spheres or jars containing a complete ecosystem of organisms, which recycle nutrients and obtain energy from sunlight.

Tesenberg said the “summer camp” experience and atmosphere attracted him to the position and that he is enjoying his time with the students.

“This is a really enriching experience that helps the kids out a lot,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun… It’s an easy group to work with and they seem to be enjoying what they’re doing.”