class act Best practices in action

class act
Best practices in action
CSBA's Golden Bell Awards Winner logo
class act
Best practices in action
CSBA's Golden Bell Awards Winner logo
Magnolia School District’s Summer STEM Academy is back in action
After a year off due to COVID-19, the award-winning extended learning program is in full swing
Helping incoming third-graders jump start what can be a challenging year, Magnolia School District’s 2020 Golden Bell Award-winning Summer STEM Academy may be needed now more than ever.
The elementary school district located in Orange County has operated the program for about five years but was unable to host it last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, according to school board Trustee Barbara Clendineng. Traditionally, the program has been offered to all incoming third-graders to help them transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

“It is a program that provides rich opportunities for students to develop literacy skills with a STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] connection,” Clendineng said. “During this fun and engaging program, students participate in hands-on lessons that integrate rigorous and high-interest literacy activities, science and technology. As part of these units of study, students receive targeted instruction in reading comprehension and writing skills as well as opportunities to participate in inquiry-based science and engineering tasks.”

Projects include hands-on lessons in computer coding, cybersecurity and engineering, where students design video games and build supportive structures, Clendineng said. The Academy’s ultimate goal is equipping students with the skills they need to be successful as they enter a new grade, while also providing them with a chance to participate in expanded learning activities during summer.

“District data and observation of classroom practices have shown that this unique summer program has had a great impact on our third-grade students, including higher levels of achievement on state and local assessments, improved classroom performance, and high levels of motivation and enthusiasm for learning,” Clendineng said.

students using a balloon during a class experiment
“District data and observation of classroom practices have shown that this unique summer program has had a great impact on our third-grade students.”
Barbara Clendineng, trustee, Magnolia SD
Getting back to normal
Magnolia SD students returned to campus in mid-April after a year of distance learning. Their last day of the semester was June 17. Utilizing outreach teams to keep students on track during the unprecedented period, Clendineng said that attendance has remained the same as it was pre-pandemic at roughly 98 percent.

While there was undoubtedly a sense of loss in summer 2020 without the program, the Academy has expanded its horizons upon its return. In 2021, it was offered to students at all grade levels “with a focus on strengthening reading, writing and math skills that need an extra boost as a result of a year of distance learning,” Clendineng said.

Through the district’s partnership with YMCA Anaheim Achieves, students were able to engage in a full day of programming from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Also offered were student clubs based on interests like crafts, sports and outdoor games and additional STEM activities.

The program aimed to give students high-quality learning experiences, as well as fun enrichment opportunities with a social-emotional component, while extending student learning time by five weeks, Clendineng noted. It provided grade-level lessons in key subject areas as well as interactive activities based on interest.

With programming taking place both in-person and virtually, organizers anticipated an increase in demand ahead of summer. “We do feel this program is more important than ever given what we have just gone through,” Clendineng added.

Clendineng and her colleagues on the Magnolia SD Board of Trustees will continue to support programs like the Summer STEM Academy. “Our board has a long-standing commitment to caring for the whole child. They set the tone and establish district priorities,” Clendineng said. Supporting such programs shows how much we truly value the well-being and success of children and families in our community. We have a great team of people that work to help students be successful and excited to learn.”

—Heather Kemp