It was third-grade science at its best…a hands-on experiment that created a chemical reaction to determine if two substances – in this case baking powder and vinegar – weighed more or less after being combined.
The students were eager; they shared hypotheses about what they thought would happen. They carefully measured 50 milliliters of vinegar and a level scoop of baking soda. They used a balance scale and plastic weights to weigh the substances before and after combining them. The results proved that the substances weighed less after they were combined than before and the students offered thoughtful explanations about why that was the case.
But these particular students had an edge in that area. That’s because this third-grade class was filled not with third-graders, but with third-grade teachers from elementary schools across the Cherry Creek School District.
Instead of beginning their summer break with a vacation, these dedicated classroom teachers chose to attend the CCSD Summer Learning Academy. In fact, nearly 700 CCSD teachers and administrators took part in the academy, held June 6-10 at Thunder Ridge Middle School.
“Having so many educators come out to learn and improve their instructional practice is a testament to the quality of people we hire in Cherry Creek Schools,” said Dr. Floyd Cobb, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction. “I'm glad that we make this opportunity available for them, so that they can be even better for our students.”
The Summer Learning Academy offered educators a rich variety of challenging and inspiring courses, including:
• FOSS Science
• Potions & Real World Solutions: The Magical World of STEM!
• Social Studies Alive
• Reading Big Words: Syllabication and Advanced Decoding
• Brain Friendly Classrooms
• Engaging Students in Analytic Essays and the Study of Complex Nonfiction
"I want tools and strategies for engaging all students and tips and tricks for creating active classrooms,” said Blair Mellon, a Gifted and Talented teacher at Heritage Elementary. She attends the Summer Learning Academy every year because she believes it benefits her students. “If the kids are engaged, they’re interested, they’re motivated to learn and it increases their self-drive.”
She took one of the most popular courses offered this year. It was called “Keeping Kids Out of the ZOMBIE ZONE: Engaging Students Using Digital Tools” and was taught by CCSD technology coaches Amber Paynter and Keli Kinsella.
“We want them to think differently, more critically about how they are engaging their students and have different ways to motivate their students,” Kinsella said.
With a focus on “the four Cs” – communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking – Kinsela and Paynter guided their students through a fun and fascinating exercise. They used the four Cs, clever clues placed throughout the classroom and a variety of tech tools including computers, websites, digital maps and a virtual reality device called Google cardboard, to unlock five different kinds of locks on a box containing the “zombie antidote.”
“This class was high interest and really hit the mark with getting kids engaged and giving me tools that I can use to be more successful,” said Scott Rogers, a fifth-grade teacher at Summit Elementary. Although he’s been teaching in CCSD for 24 years, he said, “You always can learn something new!”
Erika Deshay, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Campus Middle School, agreed.
“This is my seventeenth year teaching and I always want something new and different in my classroom and I’m looking for ways to work on engagement, going past that personal connection and looking at what else can I do, especially using technology, to ensure that my kids are really getting the most that they can out of my class,” Deshay said.
Megan McCreesh, French teacher and World Language Coordinator at Overland High School, said she attended the Summer Learning Academy for herself, her students and her department.
“As the coordinator, I feel like I need not only good ideas for myself and my classroom but also the teachers in my department. So I signed up for quite a few classes this week just to get myself out of my French world and see where I can help as a leader in my building,” McCreesh said.