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Enquirer photo/Lauren Jackson

Under the sea

Burleson Summer Academy explores the ocean for summer learning

Students of all ages dived deep into the ocean for summer learning at F.E. Burleson. Burleson hosted the third annual Summer Academy and explored the depths of the ocean in a learning experience for all.

During the academy Burleson teachers partnered with Athens State education students to provide hands-on learning for first- through fourth-grade students. The unique opportunity allowed Athens students to gain valuable teaching experience while helping grade-school students prevent summer slide.

Dena Mayfield oversees and coordinates the academy for Burleson, and she said the experience is a win-win for all involved. The main goal of the academy, she explained, is to keep students learning in a fun way throughout the summer.

“We have found that our students that have excelled, excel at a better rate,” she explained. “They have gained confidence. I have paired them with upcoming teachers they have so that relationships are built. They get to be in a comfortable environment and get to see their teachers excited and energized. They start the year confident and ready.”

Throughout the academy, students learned more about the ocean through hands-on activities. Students took part in echolocation by closing their eyes and listening to the sound of a bouncing ball, and they built layers of the ocean with recycled material. They also created their own bottom-dwelling fish after learning about some of the odd animals that live at the bottom of the ocean.

Dr. Tina Sloan, Athens State coordinator for the summer academy, said the academy allows her students to gain experience in a school setting to better prepare them for their future careers. “We all have the same goal: that the children benefit from this,” said Sloan, “and that this gives us the opportunity to be even better as teachers because they will be future colleagues. We want what’s best for the children,”

The academy also allowed high school students who are interested in pursuing careers in education to help out. Nanette Edde, who oversees the high school program, said the high school students get to see whether teaching something they would be interested in doing.

“This gives them an opportunity to actually be in the classroom and see what is expected of them at the college level and in the professional world,” Edde said. “It lets them make sure this is what they want to do before they go off to college.”

Sarah Bragwell is the library media specialist at Burleson and helps organize the academy. She said although the academy used the ocean theme in every lesson, they were able to incorporate every subject into the lessons. “When we discussed ocean depths, they put that in meters. Our kids are so used to putting things in feet, so we did math conversions. That’s how you bring math to that,” she said. “A lot of classes did graphs of their favorite animals. Of course, I pulled every one of our fiction and non-fiction books about the ocean from the library.”

Margaret Pirtle, a parent of one of the students attending the summer academy, said her daughter has been participating in the academy for two years now.

“She found all the lessons to be exciting and engaging, and she has been talking about it when she comes home,” Pirtle said.

Amy Cole is a first-year teacher taking part in the summer academy. She said not only has she been able to mentor students from Athens and the high school, but she was able to take away several new ideas from the students as well. “I have taken notes on books they read and things they have done that I will take back to my classroom,” Cole said. “I am really getting some great ideas, and I have learned from them too.”

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