Sometime between dance rehearsal and swim class, a classroom filled with soon-to-be third graders attempt to understand solar power.
With tinfoil, empty cardboard boxes, and a collection of odd insulation-like sand, cotton balls and felt, these students attempt to build a contraption that will collect the most heat from the blistering midday sun.
The end goal: tasty s’mores.
“It’s a scientific test,” said rising third grader Prince Udeh, overlooking his brown box baking on a courtyard picnic table. “The Hershey’s are going to melt.”
This is summer camp — of a different sort.
For the last three years, University School of Nashville has operated a free, six-week summer program called Horizons. Students from nearby Carter-Lawrence Elementary School attend the program in a unique partnership aimed at bringing the two neighborhood schools, one private and one public serving mostly low-income families, together in a common goal — reduce summer learning loss.
Each day, teachers from both schools blend academics — math, science and reading — with fun art, music and drama activities and confidence-building challenges like swimming.
What distinguishes this program from others is the structure.
In 2014, the then-Carter-Lawrence principal selected 15 rising first graders to take part in Horizons; one-third of the students were high achieving, one-third were learning at grade level, and one-third were below grade level. Those 15 students and their families committed to attend the camp each summer for the next eight years.
Every year since, another 15 first graders have been added to the program — with the students from the previous years returning. This year, 45 children attended Horizons, most of them boarding a bus at Carter-Lawrence every morning and heading less than a mile down the road to learn how plants grow, better understand the solar system, build small robotics — and make s’mores.
“It exposes our kids to a lot of opportunities they normally wouldn’t have,” said Carter-Lawrence math and science teacher Ida Fields, taking a second to step into the shade away from boxes filled with sizzling marshmallows.
It does more than that. (continue reading at Tennessean)