The National Post: Special Report, May 27, 2017

School’s in for the summer

Kathryn Booth
Read National Post article.

“Being involved in a learning community throughout the summer, whether in academics, sport, music or cultural experiences, translates into success both in and out of the classroom come September.” – Michele Bett, Ridley College

While many students see summer as a time to shed the rigors of school, don shorts and a t-shirt and head to the beach, others are singly focused on solidifying their academic future. These are the students that opt for summer academy.

Sixteen-year old Isha is one of those students. Her goal is to study mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Isha chose to attend summer academy at The Bishop Strachan School (BSS) in Toronto two years ago to get a jump on grade nine math. “I have always had an interest in math and science and saw it as an opportunity to get an early credit so that I could advance to grade 10 math when I returned to school,” she says.

Her experience at BSS summer academy was so engaging that Isha applied for financial assistance to attend the independent all-girls school full time. Last summer she took a grade 10 science credit. It allowed her to move into grade 11 biology and chemistry during the school year. Isha hasn’t looked back since. She is now a thriving advanced-level student firmly committed to learning during the off-season.

“At summer academy the small classes, single focus and one-on-one time with teachers make the subjects easier to comprehend and it gets mandatory credits out of the way,” says Isha. “In school my courses are now more balanced, which brings up my marks. Ultimately, that will benefit me on my application for university. I would encourage others to try summer school, because it gives you that added advantage.”

Summer academy is not simply condensed school. “Each course has the same hours as a school-year course. The difference is that students don’t have the distractions of multiple subjects to contend with. It is a wonderful opportunity to get into the course and discipline of studying,” says Brendan Lea, vice-principal of curriculum at BSS.

The BSS summer academy is open to grades eight to 12 students whether or not they attend BSS during the school year. Summer credit courses are four weeks. One-week skills programs are also offered. The summer academy is co-ed despite the school’s all-girls full-time cohort.

“Mixing in different circles helps reset the class dynamic, whether other students are girls from different schools or the opposite gender,” explains Lea. “Our goal is that they find the courses engaging, learn from an experienced team of teachers, and broaden their

The Ridley College Summer Academy keeps students engaged and working their minds throughout the summer. In the non-credit entrepreneurial skills program, participants develop a business model, produce a product and develop a marketing plan.

The summer academy program at Ridley is not purely focused on teens and academics, however. It offers day and boarding, credit and non- credit, and activities for children ages four to 18.

In selecting the programs for summer learning, Bett says it was about responding to the demand from students. Some want to improve their command of the English language; some seek acceleration in math. “We also offer robotics, arts, wellness and CSI Ridley, where we look at the forensic sciences,” she says. “Students can further participate in entrepreneurial skill- building or enjoy enhanced music training with a summer symphony boarding experience, where they can also perform with an ensemble.”

On evenings and weekends, boarding summer students participate in arts, activities, athletics and day trips to cultural events and locations.

“Being actively and enthusiastically involved in a learning community through- out the summer, whether in academics, sport, music or cultural experiences, translates into success both in and out of the classroom come September,” says Bett. For some students, it has also led to full-time enrolment in Ridley College. “That tells us our commitment to teaching and empowering kids is delivering in a very positive way.”