Saugus Union School District officials said their 2021 Summer STEAM Camp is designed to not only be educational, but also help students transition back to a normal school environment following a year of distance learning.
Taking place from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. daily from June 21 to July 16, four Saugus Union school sites have hosted more than 1,800 students attending Special Education Extended School Year (ESY) and STEAM camp. District officials have said families and staff have expressed their joy at seeing their students learning among their friends and classmates in an engaging way once again.
“It is really helping us get a hold of and mitigate the learning loss, because they do go to an hour of English Language Arts and an hour of math,” said Edwin Clement, assistant superintendent of education services. “But then they essentially have two hours of STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, art and math.”
STEAM programs this summer have included things such as ballet, computer coding, Lego robotics, flight testing of rockets, painting, drumming and a number of others, district officials said.
“They’re able to explore, discover, experiment, build … it’s super engaging and fun,” said Clement. “So, they’re getting a little bit of the best of both worlds.”
Michelle Barries, assistant superintendent of student support services for the district, said the ESY program has provided special education students, especially in the special day classes, with better teacher-to-student ratio and a curriculum that is adapted for the students with individual education plans. Both special education and general education students receive the benefit of returning to school campuses and getting back into learning in a fun way, Barries said.
“It’s a fun way to minimize some of the learning loss we had, and just really connect with kids,” said Barries. “I think that, as educators, we all felt a little remiss that we opened our schools but we didn’t have the kids to connect with.
“It’s one thing online, but it’s very different when you see their faces on campus and you see them in person.”
Giving up a non-insignificant portion of their summer, approximately 50 teachers and 30 classified staff have been helping run this year’s Saugus district summer program.
“It was a hard year, so a lot of people were burned out,” said Barries. “But for so many people to respond, want to help and do this for our kids, just really shows that our organization is kids first and that we’re going to do whatever it takes.”