J.P. King offers unique summer school program

Published 9:49 am Saturday, July 25, 2015

Above: Students at J.P. King’s S.T.R.E.A.M. summer school program assemble a robot out of Legos. Once programed, the robot will complete tasks on its own. -- SUBMITTED | RATHMOND COLLINS

Above: Students at J.P. King’s S.T.R.E.A.M. summer school program assemble a robot out of Legos. Once programed, the robot will complete tasks on its own. — SUBMITTED | RATHMOND COLLINS

The term “summer school” typically comes with a negative connotation, as remedial students spend their vacation days repeating coursework in order to advance to the next grade. With J.P. King Jr. Middle School’s new S.T.R.E.A.M. Program, however, students are able to get a head start on their upcoming classes.

“We’re focusing on kids moving to the next grade, getting them acclimated to the work they’re going to do in the next grade,” said Dean of Students Darren Parker. “It’s almost like giving them a push start so that when they move into the next grade, they’re familiar with the work … so that when they come back in the fall, they can be very successful.”

S.T.R.E.A.M. — which stands for Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art and Mathematics — has a unique syllabus, too. The students attend reading and math class in the morning, and then have “enrichment” time after lunch. During this period, which lasts nearly two hours, the students build robots, sculpt their favorite animal or museum piece or make s’mores in pizza box ovens.

“It’s exciting because it’s allowing the kids to do technology and art, and I think having the hour and 45 minutes is wonderful because they only have like 60 minutes during a typical day,” said Assistant Principal Lisa Francis. “That way, they’re able to create things like robots. It’s showing our students what they’re really great at.”

The program runs Monday though Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and offers field trips for its nearly 80 students on Thursdays. Thus far, they’ve visited the Virginia Air and Space Museum in Hampton, the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach and the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond.

“[They] tour the center and watch an IMAX or movie that ties in either with robotics, art or science. All of it ties in with what we’re doing here.” Parker said, noting that the students are in for a surprise this coming Thursday. “And we’ve gotten a number of compliments, too, on how, when we go away, we make sure we look like a team.”

Francis chimed in that the students know the expectations the staff has before they walk out of the doors of the school building.

“That’s just kind of carried over from the year. We try to run summer school just exactly like school, and they’ve done really well,” she said, explaining that the students wear khaki pants and blue button down shirts on the field trips.

Neither will take credit for the program’s success, though, as they preaches the program’s motto of ‘One goal; One team; One heartbeat.’

“The kids have stepped up, and they’re doing very well,” Parker said. “We have a strong team of teachers and staff in place, and we push the team concept here. From the cafeteria workers to the custodians to the teachers to the secretaries to the administration, everybody is on one accord.”

J.P. King will offer a S.T.R.E.A.M. Team exhibit on Wednesday at 1 p.m., allowing parents and community members alike to view projects from students like Myasa Whitehead and Jamari Deloatch, tour the facility and see the program’s winning T-shirt design. A rising eighth grader, Whitehead said she’s looking forward to showing off her starfish sculpture, and Deloatch, an incoming seventh grader, said the same of his space rocket.

“That was my favorite thing on our trip to the Air and Space Museum,” he said