Summer Camp For Gifted Students - Skew White and talent-rich summer programs. Not Baltimore - and it's free. With the national focus on using summer education to offset losses from the pandemic, Baltimore Emerging Scholars is among Sharma's free offerings.
Baltimore Emerging Scholars students explore states of matter by relating a mixture of water and cornstarch to solid and liquid properties in their Kitchen Chemistry class. (Asher Lehrer-Malley)
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The course is "Science Clouded with Possibility," and James Ramirez puts his handmade tin foil boat in a bucket of water and squeals with excitement when he finds it floating. A first grader and his classmates learn about density by testing how many rocks each student can pick up before it sinks.
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Ramirez throws every stone in his first hand — quickly surpassing the class record of five stones — and rushes for more as his boat stays afloat. A reserved and non-verbal child during this period, always getting heavier, laughing and shrugging with each successful placement.
With every stone, Ramirez does more than prove that he has built a solid ship. She's doing what educators across the country can do for her and millions of students like her: Accelerate learning to get back on track after COVID.
The first-grader is one of 481 youth enrolled in Baltimore's Emerging Scholars program this summer and one of more than 15,000 students participating in free summer learning opportunities through Baltimore City Schools. Thanks to the COVID relief funds, the 77,800-student district is serving more than 9,000 youth from its pre-pandemic peak, said Rhonda Welsh, the district's extended education coordinator.
Offerings include typical summer school options such as credit recovery and career learning, as well as more specialized programs such as black history debates, farm and forest camp, robotics and Freedom Schools. The Emerging Scholars program stands out as a camp that provides accelerated academic learning, but without the costs or admissions requirements typical of gifted programs.
Childrens Summer Camp Gifted Children Childrens Stock Photo 1418365742
"Our goal was to provide as many opportunities as possible for students in Baltimore," Welsh told The 74. "We want students not only to focus on math and [English], but also to be enriched socially and emotionally" .
Map of locations around Baltimore offering free summer education opportunities throughout the school district. The colors indicate the age ranges offered by each program. The pink dots represent camps run by local schools and not the district administration. (Screenshot, Baltimore City Public Schools)
Young people in Baltimore and nationally continue to score well below pre-pandemic levels on reading and math tests, with disadvantages even more severe for high-poverty schools. According to experts, it may take half a decade to fully recover. Meanwhile, many officials are counting on summer education efforts like Baltimore's to make up for lost ground.
"Especially because of COVID, kids are falling behind a little bit," said Claudia Wiseman, a second-grade summer science teacher at Baltimore Emerging Scholars. During the school year, she is an elementary special education teacher and months into the Zoom school, she said many young students still lack basic pencil skills. The students she teaches now are "a little better prepared for second grade," she says.
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It was time for the Emmingling Scholars' reception on the campus of John Rurach Elementary School, and Ramirez's mother, Christy Miranda, arrived. The staff tell him about his son's latest feat: 63 stone.
Miranda beams. The program helps the family recognize their son's potential and exposes him to academic opportunities he didn't realize he had.
"He's learning a lot," he told The 74. "I didn't know he had that ability."
During the year, her son has few opportunities for serious subjects, she said, explaining that her school is "very devalued."
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But this summer is different. Baltimore Emerging Scholars is a six-week gifted and talented program. In partnership with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gifted Youth, a world leader in gifted education, the camp provides high-level content in science, math and literacy to students in first through sixth grade.
"During a normal [school] year, all the teachers go over is what I know ... but this is new material," said fifth-grader Basil Coleman. I'm having a great time here."
Unlike many other gifted programs, the camp does not rely solely on test scores, but accepts any student who is up for the challenge. As a result, the student body is more diverse than the student body designated for gifted classes throughout the school year. About 68 percent of summer students are black, 14 percent are Hispanic, 9 percent are white, and 3 percent are Asian — numbers that closely match the district's demographic average.
Ray Leimer, who directs the program and reviews each student's application, explained that any time a student earns at or above grade level, it automatically matches the youth to the program. If there is no such indicator, the administrator will call the families directly and ask for an alternative qualification, such as the applicant likes to ask a lot of questions or thinks outside the box.
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"Ninety-nine percent of the time, what I hear is, 'My kid is completely unmotivated and unenthusiastic about school, so you're not seeing results,'" Leimer told The 74, explaining that the program almost never works. .turns back motivated students..
Ray Leimer works with families to ensure that all motivated students can participate in Baltimore's Emerging Scholars program, even if they do not yet have grades or test scores typical of gifted and talented programming. (Asher Lehrer-Malley)
According to the data, young people who choose to participate usually have this opportunity. Although the summer program does not yet have numbers for its academic impact, Emerging Scholars also hosts after-school offerings in the fall and spring. In 2020-2021, the most recent data available, the percentage of students testing at or above grade level increased by 18 percentage points in reading and 39 percentage points in math over the year.
"We are learning advanced things and we can move forward," said 11-year-old Ama Amoateng, between breaks on the playground. "It makes me feel smarter."
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Stacey Johnson, spokeswoman for the Johns Hopkins Center for Gifted Youth, predicts that once they enter the summer program, "many of these kids will be identified as [gifted]." "It's reaching kids that otherwise wouldn't be reached."
In fact, Tori Parker's parents said their daughter Skylar "rocked" last school year in reading and science, which she believes is "absolutely" because of what she did in the program.
Skylar Parker "got hooked" on reading and science last school year through her participation in the Emerging Scholars program, her father said. (Asher Lehrer-Malley)
The rapid growth proves what education scholars have long argued: academic talent is shared equally among all students, regardless of race, class, or gender—but access to advanced educational opportunities is not. 'q.
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Rising fifth-graders in a reading course focused on mystery novels are 12 chapters into their third book in a few weeks, doing what their teacher calls "detective work" to predict the ending. In another class, second graders make ooblek from a mixture of water and cornstarch, which has solid and liquid properties, to learn about states of matter and "non-Newtonian fluids." In Toyology Hall, first graders learn inertia and momentum by rolling metal and plastic sticks down stairs.
A class of fifth graders look at pieces of the letter "e" through a microscope lens and diagram what they see at different levels of magnification. For several students, this is their first time using a microscope and they are surprised to find what is described as "TV static".
"When it's called summer school, a lot of us thought it was like school...but instead it's a lot of activities and really fun," said 12-year-old Brooke Bennett.
Left to right Ama Amoateng, 11; Brooke Bennett, 12; Avery Paige, 11, and Rachel Jenkins, 11, on vacation. (Asher Lehrer-Malley)
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To perhaps surprising reviews, the camp has nearly tripled in size since launching in 2019, adding about 35% of new seats this year as it returns to in-person programming for the first time since COVID. The staffing issues that have limited the growth of many summer programs around the country are not a barrier to new scholars. In fact, each classroom has two teachers instead of one under his teaching model.
"Many of our teachers come back year after year because they truly respect and value their time with our program," Leimer said.
Teacher Kyra Thomas attended a gifted program at a young age and chose to become a teacher to inspire future generations to succeed. His childhood program introduced him to aviation, and he flew an airplane before getting his driver's license. Now she uses her experience to remind her students of their limitless potential. "I don't want you to think the sky's the limit," he told them, "because I've been there." (Asher Lehrer-Malley)
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