By Courtney Carter
Photos by Katherine Lemelle
Elementary school students from the Project PRAISE Program recently completed three weeks of enrichment learning activities. These students worked on reading and mathematics skills while learning about energy.
The students, who are at-risk academically, spent their days with classroom teachers from the District working to improve reading fluency and comprehension, as well as math computational skills and algebraic thinking.
The highlights of each day, though, were the hands-on science experiments and art activities. Students made their own solar ovens, wind turbines and charted energy uses.
“Making the learning real for these students was so important to their understanding of the concepts of energy production” said one of the teachers.
Another teacher noticed that one of her students was so engaged in the learning that when he missed the bus one morning, he walked himself to school in order to participate and not miss out. “You can’t buy that kind of enthusiasm!” his teacher said.
Project PRAISE also provided resources for the students to attend a science lesson at the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville. “Opportunities of going to Jacksonville and visiting the museum with all the exhibits, as well as just observing the Jacksonville skyline of the different bridges and skyscrapers, is a real treat for most of these students”, said Courtney Carter, Liaison for Project PRAISE. “These students miss out of going on most field trips during the school year because their families cannot afford them. To provide the students with a glimpse of what is outside of their world is so important to developing the idea that education is important and has value.”
The East Palatka Florida Power and Light plant also provided the students with a tour of the plant and explained how electricity is generated. Many of the students were surprised and impressed at the size of the generators, cooling towers and other plant facilities. Project PRAISE students also made trips to the Palatka Daily News and Palatka Post Office to learn how businesses use energy.
Students received school supplies and literacy materials to take home and use for the remainder of their summer vacation.
Most impressive was the fact that all the students participating showed growth in both reading and math skills, as well as improvement in vocabulary and language skills. When the last day for the program came, both teachers and students were sad to see the program come to an end. “I always tell the teachers at the beginning of the program that the gauge for success will be at the end,” said Carter. “If both you and the students regret that the program is over, and you wish for another week, then you know you, as the teacher, have done your job and done it well”.
Project PRAISE is an academic support program for any child in the Putnam County School District that is eligible for educational services under the McKinney-Vento Act. Students become eligible by the status of their housing. If you have questions or are interested in the Project PRAISE program, please call Federal Programs at 386-329-0543.