Lessons to love: District 30 summer school balances academics, fun
If you entered the halls of Maple School in Northbrook this summer, you would witness a space full of curiosity, exploration and wonder.
Walls were filled with anime sketches, 3-D art of sea creatures and savanna animals, and even drawings with Spanish captions, showing off younger students' hard work in art and language lessons.
Thirsty kids and teachers could visit a lemonade stand, run by the service learning class to raise money to support the Highland Park Community Foundation and Heartland Animal Shelter. They collected over $1,000 in less than four weeks, as well as 250 food items for the Northfield Township Food Pantry and 283 books for Bernie's Book Bank.
In the science labs, students mixed ingredients to create slime and test chemistry skills, or invented courses for marbles to travel as a physics experiment.
And to end the semester, music wafted through the building as theater students presented the musical "Matilda" and orchestra students performed their end-of-summer-school concerts.
This magic, however, is quite carefully curated by roughly 55 teachers and support staff, starting nearly eight months prior. District 30 summer school Principals Ashley Grosshuesch and Lainie Levin explain that it takes a lot of planning to create this special environment that equally promotes learning and fun for more than 340 students across the Northbrook/Glenview School District in prekindergarten through eighth grade.
"We strive for a balance of academic offerings, as well as fun courses like sports, drama and music," Grosshuesch says. "I feel like it's the best of both worlds, because if you want your kids working on academic skills, there are many opportunities, but they can also learn sign language or enroll in classes like All Sorts of Sports."
Levin adds that teachers welcome the change of pace just as much as students.
"What drives the vibe of the regular school year is academic progress and high emphasis on learning," she says. "Summer school gives us a chance to see our kids in a different light and watch them try new things. It helps us recenter on why we started teaching in the first place."
Students like Dylan Gryll, an incoming Maple School sixth-grader from Northbrook, agree that summer school is "more fun." This summer he is participating in a communications class where he learned skills like interviewing, a drama class that included a starring role in "Matilda" as Mr. Wormwood, and a bullet journaling course that he says inspires him with creativity.
Dylan explains that he almost missed out on this great experience by initially enrolling in another summer camp -- but it was canceled by a happy accident.
"Now I want to do this every year because it's been really fun," Dylan says.