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Greendale's summer school program offers a variety of classes for students to take, from ukulele to yoga. Tiffany Stoiber/Now Media Group


GREENDALE - Just when you thought school was out for the summer, Greendale is still keeping learning alive and well, and lots of fun. 

The Greendale School District offers dozens of different classes for kids to explore during the summer months, including cursive writing, robotics and coding.  

Of course, summer school is not a new concept. But for the past decade, Greendale has been evolving the program to something new and exciting, district officials say.

"For the past 10 years, we've been evolving the classes," said Jessica Talsky, the summer school principal. "Now, we even have more enrichment classes than remedial classes." 

Enriching classes

More than simply offering opportunities for students to catch up on subjects where they may be falling short, Greendale is continually offering more classes in which kids can just have fun learning something in their interest area.  

These classes are the key to the program's growth. Around 700 students are enrolled this year, and the summer school program now spans two school buildings, with almost 50 different classes for kids to take, according to the district.

For students, it's a chance to learn something more, with a bit of fun mixed in.

"I'm always glad to be doing summer school," said eighth-grader Charlie Julien. "It's fun for me because I love school, so when they introduced it to me I was like, 'Yeah! Three more months!' "

Animated lessons

Julien started summer school to take a cursive handwriting class and ended up getting involved with the stop-motion animation class. After taking the class for three years, he's now a teaching assistant for the class, helping his fellow students with everything that goes into making a stop motion video.

Since there are no grades or tests, stop-motion teacher Sandy Speare says the students can feel more free to experiment and use the medium to express themselves, rather than make a video to fulfill a criteria or get a good grade. 

"They can take risks," Speare said. "If they fail, there's not a grade riding on it. ... There are no certain requirements they have to fill."  

Speare has taught summer school for 13 years, and this is her 11th year teaching stop motion. In all that time, Speare says she hasn't had any discipline problems. The students get to take the time to work on projects they come up with and really dive into their creative time.  

The class isn't entirely without structure, though. Speare said she uses the first two days to teach the kids how to use the equipment and has them make a sample movie.  

Throughout the course, she also teaches the students how to use specific technology, like a green screen, which the students can then apply to their projects if they so choose.  

"The kids have a chance to let their creativity shine through. They have the self-motivation to create something," Speare said. "They have the freedom to take whatever path they want to learn, to really personalize their learning."  

Broad selection

This learning experience isn't isolated to stop motion. Within the diverse set of offerings, students can explore whatever their passion may be, whether it's the ukulele, cooking, or Broadway musicals.  

"Greendale has a diverse set of offerings," Speare said. "So the kids can explore their passion or discover it."  

Students can even join the "leadership academy," a program that lets kids help their fellow students learn in the role of a teaching assistant, like Julien.  

But whatever class kids choose, Talsky is sure that the summer experience will be a good one.  

"Parents can feel good about what their child is doing, they know they're getting an enriching experience," Talsky said.  

And kids are sure to enjoy their summer, too.  

"One of my favorite quotes from a student was, 'That was so much fun,' " Speare said. " 'I can't wait to come back tomorrow.' "

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