Learn Quest

MAPS starts new summer enrichment program

Sabrina Summersett, 8, works on her catapult during a recent session of Learn Quest, a new summer school program at Marquette Area Public Schools. New sessions are beginning later this month. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Throwing water balloons can be a rite of passage for a youngster, but it has added meaning when the heaving of said water balloons has science behind it.

Catapult concepts was just one subject taught at the recently completed first session of Marquette Area Public Schools’ inaugural Learn Quest, a summer school program designed for innovative and unique hands-on teaching and learning.

Amy Pruner, who teaches second grade at Sandy Knoll Elementary School, was involved in teaching STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“It’s based pretty much on planning according to a question that we start with,” Pruner said, “and they draw plans, and then they execute it by using just different materials that are already provided for them.”

The process for the third- and fourth-graders in her STEM session involved worksheets in which the kids had to draw and label their ideas, test to discover their results, find out how they could improve their designs, and then draw and explain their final creations.

A catapult is tried out during Learn Quest. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

Water-balloon catapults was one activity for them at Marquette Senior High School, but they also made rollercoasters out of small tubes.

The students made catapults in a variety of improvised ways, but often had to tweak their creations, such as bracing them better, moving rubber bands and adding tape.

Sabrina Summersett, 8, made this observation: “The rubber band makes it really stretchy so it can go backward and then fling back up.”

The purpose, however, wasn’t about making toys. After all, the participants could do that at home.

“It’s a lot about problem-solving and things like that,” Pruner said. “The idea with a lot of these is we do them during the school year, but we don’t usually have as much time for them to spend on these activities.”

So, that’s what’s enjoyable about having these activities in a summer enrichment mode, she said.

“You can spend time on some of these fun things,” Pruner said. “There’s no evaluation at the end. There’s no test. Just see what you can come up with, and be creative.”

For instance, the youngsters read the book “Not a Box,” written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis, and then had to create something out of boxes.

They also read “Rosie Revere Engineer,” written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts, to learn about what an engineer does.

“They know most of those other words — science, technology, mathematics — but they don’t always know the world ‘engineering,’ so we started the session with this,” Pruner said.

Stephen Atwood, who teachers global science and environmental biology at Marquette Senior High School, taught guitar during Learn Quest.

And it’s not like the students were on the same level as Eddie Van Halen when they walked through the doors.

“Some of them, it was the first time they held a guitar,” Atwood said.

However, their inexperience didn’t keep them from learning to tune their guitars or strumming the strings in a particular pattern using a G chord.

MAPS Superintendent Bill Saunders said this summer marks the first time the school district has run such an enrichment program, with MAPS also holding a regular summer school that focuses more on students who need extra help.

The enrichment program — in which topics such as comics as well as basketball and volleyball skills are taught — allows teachers to explore other activities during the regular year when they are busy with their traditional instruction in mathematics, social studies, science and English language arts, he said.

“This gives them a cool opportunity to do that,” Saunders said. “It’s hands-on. The kids are loving it. The parents are loving it. Hopefully, it will just continue to grow from here.”

Marquette Area Public Schools is accepting registrations for session 2 of Learn Quest. Session 2 will run from July 8-18. Grade categories for classes reflect the grade the student will be enrolled in at MAPS as of this upcoming fall. The class range is first-second, third-fifth, sixth-eighth and ninth-12th.

A MAPS student can register for up to three classes. Classes are $25 each. All classes are being offered at Marquette Senior High School in the air-conditioned pod. A free breakfast will be served starting at 8:30 a.m.

Classes start at the top of each hour at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., and run for 50 minutes. A free lunch then will be served from noon to 12:30 p.m. in the cafeteria.

For more information, email rtillison@mapsnet.org or contact Central Office at 225-4200.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.