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Granite Gets into Summer Learning

Jeannine Huenemann


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Nearly 200 7th graders toured the University of Utah campus.
First-Generation college students gave 7th graders from Valley Jr. High tours of the University of Utah campus
48 students visited a sustainable art exhibit called dreamscapes
Students at Granite Park Jr. High visited the dreamscapes art attraction in Salt Lake City
Granite students participates in the Geek Squad Academy hosted by Best Buy.
Kennedy Jr. High School students became “Junior Agents” and learned about education and career options
Students learn to program in Scratch at a week-long summer camp.
A district-wide GEAR UP summer camp introduced middle school students to programming in Scratch

Eight junior high schools in the Granite School District offered camps this summer to keep their students engaged and on track with learning. After having seventh-grade students from USU STARS! GEAR UP involved throughout the 2019 school year, summer camps help to keep the momentum going. This year, camps and other activities were held from the end of May through the first week of August.

Summer is the perfect time to visit college campuses around the state. Teri Dial, site coordinator at Valley Jr. High school in West Valley City, took nearly 200 of their 7th grade students on visits to the University of Utah. First generation college students led the tours and gave students a perspective on what it was like to go to the state's flagship school. Students visited the Marriott Library, the Lassonde Studio Student Life Center, classrooms, and the Olpin Student Union, complete with bowling alley and virtual reality rooms. They also had lunch at either the Peterson Heritage Center or at Granite Technical Institute, where they learned about technical and certificate programs they can take, starting in 9th grade.

One activity led by Sharla Bynum, site coordinator at Granite Park Jr. High School (GPJHS), involved 48 students and 12 chaperones in a visit to dreamscapes, Utah’s first environmentally sustainable immersive art attraction. Bynum said that the “students had a blast while learning about college and career opportunities in the arts.” Additionally, the admission fee totaling $900 was donated to help the school meet their GEAR UP matching funds. During the visit, students heard from two local art professionals. GPJHS held on-site programming Monday through Wednesday, with field trips on Thursdays as a reward for regular attendance.

Stan Drasutis, site coordinator at Kennedy Jr. High School (KJHS) has kept his students busy this summer. In May, he took students on a field trip to the Utah State Capitol. Their visit coincided with the Transcontinental Railroad's 150th anniversary celebration, allowing students to step back in history and see artifacts from the National Archives traveling exhibit. Students saw the 1862 Pacific Railway Act signed by President Abraham Lincoln and spikes used at the Promontory Summit. In June, KJHS students participated in the Geek Squad Academy (GSA) hosted by Best Buy. As "Junior Agents,” students learn about coding, film production, photography, 3D design, digital music, and other topics. GSA helps students explore their passions, gain critical tech skills, and learn about future education and career options.

A district-wide GEAR UP Summer camp was held at Valley Junior High School from July 29 to Aug. 2. Just under 40 students from seven of the junior high schools participated in the weeklong, half-day camp. Each day started with a team-building activity followed by build-projects using everyday objects such as toothbrushes, toilet paper rolls, and Legos along with more advanced Edison Robots and CoDrone. The purpose of the camp was to introduce middle school students to programming in Scratch.

“As teachers, we were amazed and delighted with how quickly these kids learned, how engaged, they were, and how creative they were at solving design and programming challenges,” said Cherie Anderson, technology specialist team leader at Granite School District. “It was so much fun for us as educators to see their enthusiasm and their commitment to tasks we gave them.” Teachers involved in the training include Heidi Meenen, Teresa Bruin, Jenny Peirce, Celia Powell, Pam Moeai, Margaret Yau, Michelle Reed, and Davina Sauthoff. During the week, students created wearable electronics, worked with robots that had remote controllers, sensors, and autonomous actions written in a block-based programming language, and learned about drones.

Activities and camps at Granite School District will continue each summer and school year through the completion of USU STARS! GEAR UP grant four program. The grant serves the entire high school class of 2024— about 3,050 students in these eight schools who are starting as eighth graders this year — through their graduation from high school and their first year of college.