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Grant funding provides summer learning at TUSD elementary campuses
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Sahid Kahlon and Christian Mohammed work on making a hydraulic lift in Sarah Flora's fifth grade summer school class at Walnut Elementary Education Center on Monday (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

Thanks to grant funding, students throughout Turlock Unified School District have even more opportunities to learn this summer through hands-on activities offered at each elementary campus for the very first time. 

While summer school was previously only offered at select TUSD sites, this year an Expanded Learning Opportunity Grant from the state allowed the school district to collaborate with the Stanislaus County Office of Education to create a Summer Learning Curriculum across all campuses during the month of June. In total, TUSD received $9.46 million in ELO funding. 

The robust program is meant to prepare students for the upcoming school year and engages them through in-person instruction, complete with social-emotional activities and projects geared toward STEAM activities, or science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. At Walnut Elementary Education Center on Monday, fifth grade teacher Sarah Flora oversaw students making their own hydraulic systems in her class by using tubes and syringes.

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By utilizing hands-on activities, TUSD's Summer Learning Curriculum is introducing students to STEAM concepts throughout the month of June (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

“I feel like it’s meeting the needs of more students instead of just one select group,” Flora said of summer school being offered at all campuses this year. “There are a variety of levels able to participate and they all shine in their own ways. If we attempt to do this more often, we’ll meet the needs of so many more students in our community.”

Fifth grader Sahid Kahlon said he’s enjoyed the activities so far since he wants to become an engineer one day. 

“It’s pretty fun,” Kahlon said. “I’ve never done summer school before this year, but I like all of the engineering stuff.”

In Sherri McMillan’s fourth grade class, students worked on creating an earthquake-proof structure using tape, marshmallows, dry spaghetti and straws. It’s activities like these that can hopefully spark careers, Flora said. 

“A lot of these kids come in and have an idea of building, whether it’s with LEGO bricks or Lincoln Logs, but then they’re able to apply that with more of an academic enrichment to it,” she said. “It really opens their eyes to the world and all of the different opportunities there are.”

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Students in Sherri McMillan's fourth grade summer school class created earthquake-proof structures in class on Monday using straws, tape, dry spaghetti and marshmallows (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

It’s TUSD and SCOE’s hope that through the hands-on inquiry based model, even students who aren’t typically excited to be in school will engage. The four-week summer program requires students to think like scientists, extend that learning through art, apply literacy and math skills along the way and showcase their learning through weekly projects and an optional open-air community showcase.

“It’s a lot of fun because it’s getting them out of the typical school year...they get to learn engineering every day and improve upon their design and be creative each day when they come back,” Flora said.