6/29/16 Bridging the Gap

Incoming ninth-graders, from left, Oscar Cabrera, Fletcher Strickland and Tyasia Johnson work on their parabolic roller coaster Tuesday at Graham High School’s Summer Bridge Camp.

Photos by Sam Roberts/Times-News

Incoming ninth-graders, from left, Oscar Cabrera, Fletcher Strickland and Tyasia Johnson work on their parabolic roller coaster Tuesday at Graham High School’s Summer Bridge Camp.

Bridging the Gap
Graham High prepares middle school grads for the road ahead
By Jessica Williams The Times-News 6/29/16  
Reprinted with permission.  

Incoming ninth-graders created stained glass windows incorporating linear functions during the Summer Bridge Camp.   

Incoming ninth-graders created stained glass windows incorporating linear functions during the Summer Bridge Camp.

 

   GRAHAM — Seven future Graham High School students are building a roller coaster.

   It’s made of foam pieces and tape and spans the length of a table, but it has all the same loops and drops as a track you’d see at Carowinds.

   This is one of many activities students have done since Graham High School’s summer bridge camp for rising ninth-graders began June 15.

   Assistant Principal Michael Irving says, aside from being a fun way to keep kids learning, the camp is a necessary part of keeping them in school.

   “Typically if a kid is going to end up not graduating from high school, … they make that decision within the first couple weeks of their freshman year. So what we want to do is make sure those first couple weeks are as smooth as possible,” he said. “All the kids who are here, they’ll know the expectations, they’ll know what they need to do, … so when they come here, it’s a lot less likely for them to experience whatever difficulties cause a kid to decide that they’re not going to finish high school.”    The camp is funded by GEAR UP, which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, a program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. Graham High School teachers have volunteered to teach math, science, English, and study skills classes over the two-week period, giving them the chance to meet and interact with students before the real work starts.

   “It gives the teachers the opportunity as well to find out what the students’ needs are,” Irving said.

   Some of the students were chosen based on ELC scores, others were recommended by their teachers, and some were encouraged to attend by their parents. Most of the 45 students are from Graham Middle School, which is a year-round school, meaning this is the first three-month summer break both the students and their parents have had to plan for in years. One of the positives of transitioning from a year-round school is that the scheduling has prepared them well for continuing education over the summer.

   The students are engaged, interested, and most importantly, retaining what they’re learning. The hands-on aspect of the camp is a huge contributing factor of that.

   “One of the big things that I wanted to accomplish with this program was to give students a lot of chances to do scientific experimentation and see real life applications for math, like with the roller coaster,” Irving said. “A lot of times students say, ‘When am I ever going to use this in real life?’ This gives them an opportunity to see that.”

   Fletcher Strickland, one of the campers working on the roller coaster, said he’s enjoyed the math projects the most. On why he signed up for the camp, he said, “My teacher explained it to me and it sounded pretty cool.”

   As for the future of the camp, Irving says they will look at data over the course of the school year and see how it’s affected students. The school has about two years left on the GEAR UP grant, which will be used to continue building the camp, recruiting more students, and creating the strongest bridge possible between middle and high school. From here, it can only get better.