Students experiment with at-home summer projects


By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — A summer learning program that encouraged students at John F. Kennedy Catholic School to try something new and turn in a project was a success. Anna Schott, counselor at JFK, said the school has its traditional reading log, but she wanted to do something more to keep kids active and learning.
Schott even added in a bonus of a jeans day pass for those who completed the project. “We normally do an all or no one with out of uniform passes,” she said.

Anne Marie Amacher Camdyn Baier holds a quilt that she and her grandma made over the summer. The quilt was for a summer fun fair project at John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Davenport.
Anne Marie Amacher
Camdyn Baier holds a quilt that she and her grandma made over the summer. The quilt was for a summer fun fair project at John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Davenport.

Although many schools focus on STEM projects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), she offered STEAM (by adding in Arts). “Everyone must realize that to be successful in the technical fields, individuals must also be creative and use critical thinking skills which are best developed through exposure to the arts.”
Students were encouraged to chose a topic to explore, document their project with notes, photos, drawings or video, use their imagination to share what they made through a diorama, poster or video, create the display for Unpack Your Backpack Night (which was Aug. 22) and turn in the project at registration, which was July 31 and Aug. 1.

Twenty-four students turned in projects, which was much higher than Schott expected for a first-year try. Some students did their projects on their own, while others worked with a parent, guardian or grandparent.


Fifth-grader Sean Brown learned Scratch and Python computer programming. He has been interested in the behind-the-scenes part of computers and thought this might be a useful skill to learn now. He plans to be a programmer in the future.

He read books and went to websites to learn how to program. On his poster he showed examples of how programming translated into what an individual might see on a computer screen. Sean hopes the summer program will be offered next year and would like to do advanced programming.

Sixth-grader Adie Craig baked cookies with her grandmother. “I like to cook. I thought about making my own recipe, but decided to add or take out ingredients to see what it did to the cookies.”

Her first batch “didn’t work out.” The cookies were burnt. Adie said she used way too much granulated sugar and brown sugar. “My brother tried it and liked it. But he likes sugar.”

Her favorite cookies were from the week four experiment; these cookies were gooey and had a delicate texture. Next summer she said she might try another cooking project or build something with her dad.

Sixth-grader Caroline Corckran did raised garden beds. “I was going to try gardening last summer, but I gave up. Then this STEAM activity came and I decided to do it.”

She and her family planted a variety of vegetables including watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, peppers, carrots and broccoli.
A vacation break affected her strawberries due to lack of water, but she noted they are starting to come back. Regular dirt was used in the base of the boxes with compost and fertilizer added on top. Most of the vegetables were grown from seed.

Caroline said she would like to participate again next year. Either she plans to do something with gardening again or maybe try some baking.

Third-grader Camdyn Baier made a quilt with the help of her grandma. Camdyn selected fabric squares in reds, oranges and yellows from the fabrics that were available and stitched them together. Then with her grandma, she sewed on the framing, added batting (filler) and sewed up the edges. Then with a special machine, added stitched designs to the quilt. “Next year I might try to make a shirt,” she said.

Twin fifth-graders Kyle and Ryan Burke teamed up to write and illustrate books. “I felt it was really fun,” said Kyle. Ryan wrote the stories and Kyle did the illustrations. The two would like to do it again next year and maybe do stories of peoples lives.

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