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Flexing Brain Muscles at Patriot Academy

Flexing Brain Muscles at Patriot Academy!

When we think of summer, we usually think vacations, time at the pool, relaxation, and of course sleeping in!  However, for 56 Clarkson students, grades Kindergarten through 6th grade, this was not the case for the past several weeks.  On Monday, July 8th, these students gathered at Clarkson Public Schools with several teachers, to embark on a three-week-long learning filled adventure that is known as Patriot Academy.

The Patriot Academy was started last summer by superintendent Rich Lemburg as a tool elementary-aged students can utilize during the summer to brush up on reading and math skills and engage their brains in a variety of hands on, project based, and STEM activities.  The Academy ran Monday through Thursday from 8:30 am – 11:00 am for three weeks.  Malia Nemecek, CPS’s first grade teacher stated “The best part about Patriot Academy is that the relaxed, engaging atmosphere stimulates learning which makes the students look forward to coming.  Students are able to brush up on academic skills which creates a smoother transition for the upcoming school year.”

 This year, for the first two weeks of Patriot Academy, students began their day in a very typical classroom style setting, recalling skills and facts related to math and reading.  While this may not be every student’s favorite time of day, Jackson Green, who will be in 4th grade this year, hit the nail on the head that “Patriot Academy is so you can get back into learning again and you aren’t completely lost when you get back to school.”   Snacks were then provided as all students headed outside for a dose of beautiful weather and recess!  The most popular activity during recess, with a never ending line, was of course, 6 square! 

After recess, students then had the opportunity to immerse themselves in a plethora of hands on projects, offered by teachers with talents that go above and beyond classroom skills.  With classes rotating between teachers, students were seen building white finished and beautifully stained side tables and desks from bare lumber with Mr. Bailey and Mr. Faltys in the wood shop.  Self portraits were a hit, taught by Mrs. Stodola.  Noah Holoubek offered his expertise in coding to teach the students how to code their own game on the computer, which they were then able to play!  And the list goes on, as these are just a few of the great projects that were worked on in those two weeks!  Austin Matthies, a soon-to-be 4th grader was fond of Patriot Academy saying, “I want to come back next year because we do fun activities and have recess and snack outside!”

As students entered the building on  Monday of the final week, they saw an enclosed trailer parked outside the building with the words THINK, MAKE, and CREATE on the outside.  And they did just that!

This trailer is actually a mobile lab from Civic Nebraska, which provides a transportable platform to serve any group with high quality, hands-on STEM activities and was on loan to the Patriot Academy  for the whole last week students attended. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and is important to teach because it pervades every part of our lives.  By exposing students to STEM and giving them opportunities to explore STEM related concepts, students are able to see how concepts relate to real life and may spark a passion for these areas.

This trailer, filled with tubs, boxes, and bins full of these STEM activities, was at the teacher’s disposal, allowing them to pull new activities from the STEM trailer every day.  In total, over 24 different STEM activities were presented to students throughout the week!  Cadence Indra, who will be going into 7th grade this fall, said “I’m going to miss the STEM activities that we did.  We learned a lot from them.”

 Challenging their minds, working as a team, and testing outcomes were some of the major skills worked on while participating in activities such as making “straw-kets” (hand-made rockets propelled by blowing into  a straw), assembling a pet robot from scratch, designing a car that is fueled by the air in a balloon, or making a catapult that actually launches objects!  Creative thinking was challenged by using Play-Doh, Perler Beads, or recyclable materials to make patterns, scenes, or animals.  Some students went home with containers of wildflowers they had planted and students enjoyed working with water beads and toys like Knex.  Virtual reality goggles were viewed by every student, allowing them to step into places like Machu Picchu and Mount Everest, or scuba dive in the Galapagos Islands and check out a ship wreck off the Florida Coast.

While Patriot Academy is over for the summer, and students and teachers can use their last few weeks of summer to relax and enjoy the pool, Tami Sayers, a middle school teacher at CPS summed it up best saying  “The Patriot Academy was definitely a success this year!  We had a great turnout and active involvement from our students.  The STEM trailer helped get the creative juices flowing and you could see the wheels turning in each of our student’s minds and it sparked excitement within us teachers!  The Academy made everyone eager for the school year to get started!”