Field trips, friendship and fun: Fridays at Stillwater’s Summer Learning Program are all of this, and far more. The goal of the program, which meets for six weeks during July and August, is to keep students engaged, involved and building upon skills learned during the school year through hands-on, real-life experiences, including weekly jaunts off campus.
This summer, the students have been focusing on the science and history of water bodies, and the Fun Fridays field trips have included Brown’s Beach, the Round Lake Preserve, Peebles Island, and the nature trail, marsh and Hudson River shoreline behind the Stillwater campus. The students’ capstone trip will be on August 13, when they venture to Moreau Lake State Park to explore the lake and a creek, enjoy a cookout and take part in a variety of outdoor activities.
Four classrooms of students in grades K through 12 participate in the Summer Learning Program, which is led Mondays through Fridays by 10 Stillwater faculty and staff members. Trinity Cutler-Mujjumbire, a recent Stillwater graduate, has also been helping out, coordinating and supervising Fun Friday activities. She is a volunteer, but is interested in possibly entering an education-related field after college.
Carolyn Manzella, the district’s director of pupil personnel services, can’t say enough about Fun Fridays and how well the field trips have been received. “Our attendance has increased because of our Friday outings, which the students have looked forward to,” she said. “They’ve become more engaged and excited about coming to school during the summer, and we are hopeful their increased interest will continue into the school year.”
When asked about their favorite part of the Summer Learning Program, a number of the students noted the social aspects. “My favorite part is being with all of my friends,” Robert said. “I also like hanging out with the teachers and learning.”
Lucas said that he “liked hanging out with everybody.” Billy said he likes the summer program “because I like school. It’s a fun place to be.” And Landon said he “liked working with a different teacher.”
Zachary said his favorite part of the summer was “going to Brown’s Beach. It was very fun, and I live near there.” Bethany said the field trips were her favorite part of the summer, and that of them all, “Brown’s Beach was the best.” During that outing on July 16, Zachary, Bethany and their schoolmates studied aquatic plant and animal life, took part in a scavenger hunt, and enjoyed a dip in the lake.
On July 23, the Summer Learning Program classes traveled to the Round Lake Preserve to study the marsh. They toured the preserve on the boardwalk, read interpretive signs about history, plants and wildlife, and saw a blue heron, frogs, fish and even an eagle’s nest.
July 30 found the Summer Learners at Peebles Island State Park in Cohoes. Connected by bridges to Waterford and Cohoes, the park is located at the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson rivers, is reachable by pedestrian walkways, and features waterfalls, a dam and a working lock.
“Our classes experienced a 40-minute tour and talk about the lock,” Manzella said. “We went to the top of the lock, and the lock operators showed how it works, with its red and green lights, gates, rising water levels and guidance for boaters. After the lock tour, the students walked to the island, where they played soccer, football, basketball, badminton, frisbee canjam, blew bubbles, or created their own games.”
On Friday, Aug. 6, the Summer Learners explored the nature trail behind Stillwater Elementary School. They listened to birds and crickets, looked at plants and trees, and stopped to view the pond, marsh and beaver dam, before heading down to the sandy shore of the Hudson River. There they peered into the calm water, spying tadpoles, aquatic plants and the occasional mussel shell. The students then returned to campus for a quick lunch and some fun on the soccer field, including frisbee, football, soccer, badminton and bubble blowing.
The warm, sunny weather made for a great day of learning, socializing and playing outdoors for the Summer Learners. As they boarded the bus to head home, they were already looking forward to next Friday’s field trip – and to coming back to school the following Monday as well.
In the photo at top of page: Students and staff gather at the nature trail on August 6
Summer Program Learners at Brown’s Beach
Having fun at Brown’s Beach
Exploring marsh ecology at the Round Lake Preserve
There was a lot to experience at Peebles Island State Park
Heading out on the nature trail behind the Stillwater campus
A view of the marsh from the Stillwater nature trail
Summer Learners check out the Hudson River shoreline near their school
Frisbee is one of many fun activities students enjoy during Fun Fridays