Wonderful Final Week – 2014

What a terrific last week we had at Summer of SUCCESS!

Some of the girls worked together very diligently to create a dance and after several tries, we caught it on video! Such fun. Great smiles.

We spent our last morning at Elderslie Farm, and even though we had been there before, we got to do some really great new things. The intermittent rain didn’t dampen our fun in the least.

Since it was a “Bramble Days Cafe” day, we got to have breakfast! There were scones, granola and yogurt (with fresh berries – YUM!), frittata and blackberry lemonade.

And we went on as many hayrides as we possibly could! Over and over and over…

We also got to swing on the swings and we visited (and fed) the VERY pregnant goats, who seriously should be having their babies any day! We thought they would be born a few weeks ago and these goats are really looking uncomfortable now. 🙂

And THEN Mr. Elder showed us how to pick blackberries and we all got to pick some.  (He knew what he was talking about when he said to make sure they were “coal black”). Even a tiny bit of red made for a seriously tart berry!

In the afternoon we did our last Reading Plus, Math Magician and Khan Academy sessions so we could measure our progress over the summer. One student knocked 40 seconds off her “All Operations” time (100 computation questions on 0-12)!! One parent watched her daughter finish a lesson so she would know how to do it from home for the rest of the summer. And Mrs. Hawks helped a student finish her online journal.

We were playing our last SET games and realized the cards had gotten mixed up so we did a major organizing project to get them ready for the school year.

The other favorite game was Blockus – we managed to get a few of those games in, too, on the last day.

When we were loading up the basil to take home, one of the students happened to mention that her family had been using the basil plant she had taken home a couple weeks prior! They had planted it in the ground, it was growing, and they were using it for cooking tasty things!

Mrs. Carter brought her fancy microscope and some moth wings and roly-polys and we were AMAZED by what we saw under there!  She also brought some owl pellets and we were able to see mouse bones in them…

We are deeply grateful to Jeff Freund, principal of Coleman Middle School, for hosting us the first two weeks and to Pastor Wade Moore and LaTonia Kennedy for allowing us the use of Urban Preparatory Academy space for the last four weeks.

Thanks also to Joni Hawks, our program coordinator, and to our fantastic volunteers, some who came nearly every day for all six weeks and some who came once, as they were available: Kate Henson (Wheaton College), Judy Carter (Brooks grandparent and volunteer), Valerie Ellington (community member who found us through Volunteer Kansas), Priyanka Botny (Brooks volunteer), Janaea Eads (WSU student), Derek Cox (WSU student), Susan Elder (K-State student), Bao Vincent Ho (WSU student), Michaela Liebst (WSU student) and Alex Schmidt (paraprofessional in USD259).

We are grateful to Elderslie Farm for sharing their wonderful place with us, and for the donors who made it possible for us to have breakfast there and come away with some nice veggies on our field trips, AND pick berries.

We also thank the parents who entrusted their incoming 5th, 6th and 7th graders with us (and some of whom went out of their way to make it possible for their friends’ children to participate). It was great to have students from Allison, Brooks, Coleman, Christa McAulliffe, Hamilton, Mead and Mayberry, as well as a couple students who were here visiting from out of town and joined us.

Field Trip to Elderslie Farm

What a GREAT day we had at Elderslie Farm!!

Upon arrival, we visited the goats and checked out the swings.  It turns out a couple of the goats are about to have babies and they were BIG. We pulled up grass and pulled down leaves from trees we could reach and found whatever we could in the way of food to give the goats, which were were very friendly and very hungry.

We then got back in our cars and followed Alexis out to her growing fields, about a mile north of Elderslie Farm. After introductions all around, Alexis told us first about the watering system and how the lines were built from the pond up to the pumphouse and then into the fields for drip irrigation. We then walked out to see some of the plants that were growing, which included peppers (a branch had broken off one of the plants so we “harvested” some peppers that were on it) as well as chard, kale, tomatoes, beans, cabbage, yellow squash and zucchini. There were probably more but we didn’t have time to see everything.


Sunflowers are for more than prettiness!

We passed by some clumps of very large sunflowers and Alexis explained that those are there to attract bees (which are good for pollinating things) and also some good wasps that eat bad bugs. It’s amazing how nature works together!

We went to the potato growing area and didn’t see anything interesting. The tops of the plants were all dead-looking. We found out, though, that they were supposed to be dead-looking and that meant it was time to harvest the potatoes. Alexis stuck a shovel in the ground and turned over a big chunk of dirt and there were LOTS of potatoes! We started picking them out of the ground and everyone got to take some home.

Alexis then asked if we wanted to pick some onions and we definitely did. So we went over to the onion patch, where the onions had been picked and were drying on the ground. Everyone got to find an onion and add it to their “loot”.

From there we headed back to the farm and walked out to where the horses and donkeys live. We weren’t able to ride them today but one of the very friendly donkeys came over so we could pet him.

We then stopped by the sawmill and learned that after trees are cut into lumber, some of the boards take up to two years to dry enough to make into furniture or doors, etc. We also learned that the little tiny oak tree that was planted by the woodshop might grow to live for 200 years!

After our tour of the woodshop, where we got to see some cool tools and a beautiful dining room table that Mr. Elder had built for someone, we stopped by a big mysterious tractor or two for some pics (we forgot to ask what they were for), then went to the house, where Mrs. Elder had prepared a tasty lunch for us.

What a fun day! We are so grateful to Katharine Elder for organizing and giving us lunch, Alexis Elder for sharing about her veggies and George Elder for letting us visit his sawmill and woodshop!  We are also very grateful to our volunteers, Kate Henson and Susan Elder (who came today), as well as those who have made donations to support our field trips and our program in general!

Week Four Fun

Some more wonderful middle schoolers joined us this week for our summer adventure. We’re making more progress on Reading Plus and Khan Academy and math facts, but we’re also tasting new things, harvesting the first basil leaves from the plants we planted last week, making smoothies, learning new card games and other games (“Set” is a really good one and we also really like Blockus…), working on times tables, doing projects, writing stories and reading them to the group.

We are SO fortunate to have such great volunteers helping us out! Kate Henson (Wheaton student), Judy Carter (Brooks volunteer), Priyanka Botny (WSU student), Janaea Eads (WSU student) and Derek Cox have been GREAT to have around enjoying our activities with us and teaching and learning new things! And we are very grateful to UP Academy for allowing us to meet there the last four weeks of “camp”.

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Summer of SUCCESS Moves to UP Academy

Our first week in the new location (at Urban Preparatory Academy – the new school in the old Mueller building at 2821 E 24th) has been a blast! Our numbers have grown every day we’ve been there, and we are learning all kinds of new and interesting things and doing all kinds of fun projects, playing new games (and some old favorites), planting basil, tasting basil and tomatoes and olive oil, writing in our journals (typing, actually… they’re online!), taking video and photos, doing Reading Plus and Khan Academy, getting faster at math facts, and laughing a lot!

Today was a particularly fun day… we visited Elderslie Farm near 101st Street North and Hillside. We saw and/or rode horses and donkeys, visited the goats (they’re about to have babies!), visited the sawmill and saw a huge tree being cut, visited a veggie-growing area, visited the Bramble (that’s what the blackberry “patch” is really called) and tasted both raspberries and blackberries! Then Mrs. Elder made us a very, very tasty lunch of pasta with bacon and peas and chard. Yum, yum. We are very excited to go back next week and see some more things there. The horses and goats might have their babies by then! (Incoming 5th, 6th and 7th graders can register here to join us – so far we have students who will be going to Spaght, Mayberry, Mead and Coleman).

Here are some pics of what we’ve been up to:

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Week One – SO Fun!

We had a very small but delightful group of students for the first week, and a terrific group of volunteers! Big thanks to Priyanka Botny, Valerie Ellington, Judy Carter, Bill Spece, Branden Tang, Kate Henson and Janaea Eads!

In addition to learning Blockus and Chess and Scrabble and math games…

IMG_9980…we also did some Reading Plus (so we get better and faster at reading comprehension) and Khan Academy (math!) on the computers. The students will be able to continue doing these at home all summer long if they want to. 🙂

We also learned how to roll up a hose on a reel and discovered it’s not as easy as it looks to wind it back up neatly.

IMG_9967We learned about Haiku and wrote a few of our own (see the one on radishes below!). We also learned a bit about Ireland (one of the volunteers, Kate, just returned from a semester abroad there and had lots of stories and photos). Another volunteer taught us some Tae Kwon Do and another one shared a bit of yoga and we also practiced multiplying by 12’s (walking backward). 🙂

We also continued to tend the garden that was started by the Coleman Garden Club. We identified a few things that were growing there (spinach, chard, peas, different lettuces, carrots, radishes and WEEDS).

There was more weed-pulling to do (which was MUCH easier after the big rain last night). There were more peas ready to harvest and taste, and we also had a bit of an adventure with a radish that got too big (and therefore too spicy!)..

We will definitely harvest a smaller one next time.  In fact, two students wrote Haiku poems about that radish:

First taste of radish
Tastes like a giant chili
I did not like it.

First taste of radish
Spicy, hot surprise it was
Next time, pick smaller

We also transplanted some basil and tomatoes the Coleman Garden Club had started in the spring. On the spur of the moment, a volunteer asked a couple of middle schoolers to make a “how-to” video as they planted the third tomato.

One of our favorite quotes from the week was from the student who said, “I really like coming here! It’s like…. we’re friends!”

One volunteer, who came every day, emailed to say, “I had no plans of coming to the summer program every day. I am very excited to learn from kids. I love the way Judith enjoys her sessions with kids and involves everyone in the group to participate in an activity and Joni’s enthusiasm in encouraging students and helping me to understand kids better. The kids are emerging rays of hope; what we couldn’t do in that age, they can do and we all can teach them. The best part is their eagerness to learn and unlearn. The volunteers that I work with are talented and put their 100% into their work. Talking about different cultures and food has been exciting. It allows me to be like a child too!”

We are deeply grateful to the volunteers who helped us this week:  What a great group! We’re VERY excited about Week Two. Stay tuned…

Week One, Day One

What a fun first day! LOTS of problem-solving and trying new things (like snap peas from the Coleman garden, chess and hula hoops!).

One student’s report on the first day: “We looked at plants to see what they looked like when they are growing. I tried a pea for the first time. I thought it was going to be like a peanut. It was sweet and a little bit like veggies. I liked it. I was surprised.  We played chess that made me learn the whole rules. We also did some art project that was about what you like or something else and had to write in scrapbook.”


The final touches are being put on the plans, volunteers are signing up to help, the website continues to be updated, and the student registration form is live for the 2014 version of Summer of SUCCESS!

Backing up just a bit… in the summer of 2007, a Math Academy was going to be provided for Coleman students who needed a little extra attention on math skills and we asked permission to invite current and additional volunteers to do some reading, arts/crafts and recreation in small groups with students (as we do during the school year). We had a delightful time with the students and volunteers who chose to participate so we did it again the next couple of years. We had to skip the last two summers but this year we’re back and we are adding a “virtual” summer of SUCCESS this year for middle schoolers who can’t make it to any of the camps or who want to keep going on some things after camp.

Students will definitely strengthen their reading, math, writing and study skills at each of the camps this summer, but those will be a by-product of the fun things we plan to do, not the focus. Our goal is to use things like cooking, gardening, recreation, board games, technology, etc., to help kids build a toolkit of non-cognitive skills they can use far into the future in hopes they will be well-prepared for anything a Wichita employer might challenge them with down the road.

Joni Hawks, the wonderful long-time tutoring/mentoring program coordinator at Brooks, will run the program and I will be helping with planning, recruiting and training volunteers and maintaining the website and Facebook Group.

The wonderful folks who have offered to help so far this year are Susan Elder (returning from K-State), Bill Spece (substitute teacher at a Christian school in Great Bend), Mary Pantle (future middle level teacher from WSU), Kit Limpiado (WSU Pre-Med student and member of the Asian-American Student Conference), Haley Wimberly (accountant), Kate Henson (returning for the summer from Wheaton College) and Priyanka Botny (current Brooks volunteer).

Our Facebook Group has been established and we would be delighted to have a community of volunteers, parents and supporters following our activities, posting notes of encouragement, etc. We will also be posting here on the website, so feel free to click the “follow” button. 🙂

– Judith Wencel