Newswise — GENESEO, N.Y. – SUNY Geneseo’s summer learning program for elementary school students in rural areas is in its sixth year and Program Director Annmarie Urso continues to be pleased with the educational and social progress the students make.
This year’s “Soaring Stars” program has 68 rising K-6th grade students enrolled from eight rural school districts of the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership and continues through Aug. 11. Urso and the 18 faculty and staff working with her, which includes seven undergraduates from the School of Education, use the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy during the program. The philosophy encourages children to develop individual interests and explore them using art, music, technology, building projects and physical activities.
“With this method, the environment and the student are as important as the teacher, and we have continued to see signs of progress from students involved in the program over the years,” said Urso, an associate professor of education at Geneseo’s Ella Cline Shear School of Education. “Students attending Soaring Stars 20/25 days of program show no summer learning loss. Additionally, we saw improvements of over two months in students that attended three or more years of program.”
Urso said 66 percent gained 2.85 months or more in reading ability, while 50 percent gained 2.5 months or more in mathematics ability.
“While many factors contribute to summer gain, including developmental level, these increases significantly outweigh summer learning rates for same age/grade peers who do not participate in summer programming,” said Urso.
The Mt. Morris Central District donates use of the space for “Soaring Stars,” which operates in a wing of the elementary school. During the program, the rooms are abuzz with students involved with activities. On a recent day, one child was working with playdough as a conductor to create a circuit as he explored engineering concepts. In other rooms, students were building vehicles, learning musical concepts, engaging in dramatic play, working on community projects, and expressing themselves on a paint canvas.
“Students are discovering their talents here,” said Urso. “It allows them to explore their interests and perhaps find an undiscovered strength. Hopefully, students involved in this program will increase their chances of graduating from high school and advancing to a post-secondary career training or educational experience.”
SUNY Geneseo President Denise A. Battles visited “Soaring Stars” recently and was impressed with what she observed.
“It was a pleasure seeing first-hand the impact that 'Soaring Stars' is having on the children participating in the program this summer," said Battles. "Dr. Urso and her colleagues in the School of Education have developed a model program that helps build a bright future for these eager students and strongly supports Geneseo’s commitment to education and community engagement."
Also visiting the program was Anjoo Sikka, dean of the School of Education.
“'Soaring Stars' is a true enrichment program for the child,” said Sikka. “It not only is a beneficial experience for the students in the program but also for our college students involved in the program who aspire to be teachers.”
The students and staff involved with the program also expressed strong satisfaction in the results they are seeing among the students.
“I know I’m touching some lives this summer,” said Renee Smith, a teacher in the Rochester Diocese who is among those working in the “Soaring Stars” art studio.
The cohort of students this year comes from the following school districts: Caledonia-Mumford, Avon, Livonia, Geneseo, York, Mt. Morris, Dansville, and Wayland-Cohocton. The program is funded through the continued generous support and contributions of the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership and participating school districts, the Office of the Provost, the Geneseo Foundation, the Wilson Foundation, the Rochester Area Community Foundation - Feinbloom Supporting Foundation, the Ella Cline Shear School of Education, the United Way of Livingston County, and the Greater Rochester Summer Learning Association.