Tyler, TX — Tyler – Three soon-to-be seventh grade students crowd around an iPad inside a classroom at Boulter Middle School. The students aren’t playing games or checking social networking sites, they’re learning. The girls, Ced’Tiosha Freeman, Tatyana Evans, and Kambria Gillian are writing a story using Toontastic, an iPad app.
“We’re writing a story about a group of girls who are going shopping for things they need to have a party,” Tatyana explained. “We can design our own cartoon and then add narration.”
The iPad app is an example of one of the activities students from Boulter, Stewart and Dogan middle schools will complete over the course of six weeks during UT Tyler’s University Academy summer program.
With guidance from a UT Tyler coordinator and a team of teachers, students will complete a project that focuses on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education during the summer program. At Boulter, students are designing and drafting a proposal to build a watering system for the school’s new outdoor classroom and gardens.
“The challenge was designing a class that is not only fun and engaging, but also covers the state’s educational standards, known as TEKS,” said Jason Dubose, UT Tyler’s Site Coordinator at Boulter Middle School. “These students are not required to be here, but they show up every day because they enjoy it.”
Eighth grader Daz’Monique Johnson was busy building a model-sized version of the outdoor classroom when she stopped to explain why she enjoys the University Academy summer program.
“If I were at home I would be bored, sleeping probably,” Daz’Monique said. “The University Academy is fun and educational at the same time. I feel like I’m getting ahead for the upcoming school year.”
While students at Boulter work on improving their outdoor classroom, students at Stewart are working on a robotics project and students at Dogan are building roller coasters. In addition to using Project-Based Learning in the classroom, students enrolled in the University Academy summer program also get to go on field trips to places like the Discovery Science Place, Caldwell Zoo, and the UT Tyler Science Labs.
The six-week summer program began June 4 and lasts through July 12. Students attend classes Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to noon. There are about 50 students enrolled at each of the three campuses. The University Academy summer program is paid for by a UT Tyler grant from the U.S. Department of Education.