As the end of the 2017 spring semester approached, CEISMC and Hollis staff began to ponder the upcoming year. Not far off in the distance was Hollis’ flagship year of middle school. Though the 2018 sixth graders will return to the same building, the path they carve will be entirely new. At CEISMC, those involved in the Hollis partnership saw an opportunity to facilitate the transition from elementary school, and came up with the Georgia Tech Summer Bridge program.
While Georgia Tech Summer Bridge was modeled on the style of existing CEISMC camps, it was tailored to fit the needs of the Hollis students. The program at Tech was carefully structured to target academic needs, but encompassed much more than traditional classes. The activities chosen were selected to build confidence and self-efficacy. Programming centered around growth through experience. Students started each day with swimming, they worked full afternoons in groups on creative robotics projects, and they ended their first week with a trip to the Atlanta Zoo.
The end result exceeded expectations of students and teachers alike. The academic programs received overwhelmingly positive responses from the students, who, like the teachers, relished the opportunity to study a unifying theme across language arts, math, and robotics. Having STEM every day sparked excitement in the students - a more than encouraging sign for the upcoming year where Hollis will implement a coding focus in the middle school. This excitement was not to be outdone by swimming, which the majority of participants requested more of each day, when asked what could be improved about Summer Bridge.
Summer Bridge’s success is promising for the school leadership as it looks to the upcoming year. But it left an impression beyond the material benefit of academic preparation. The 23 soon-to-be sixth graders made personal gains that will endure in the way that they see themselves and the world around them.