Learning becomes pure fun in the summer

It may be summer, but some students in Renton Schools are still engaging with learning in fun ways, like traveling to the Seattle Amazon campus, Snoqualmie Falls and meeting authors.

Young-adult fiction writer and recent nominee for the 2019 Washington State Book Award David Patneaude presented to McKnight Middle School students Wednesday, July 24, on his journey becoming a writer and the topics of some of his novels.

Patneaude used to visit schools more regularly for some of his books for younger audiences, like “Someone Was Watching,” a story of a missing girl, and “Thin Wood Walls,” a historical fiction novel about a boy in a Japanese-American internment camp. Now he’s writing older, young adult fiction including “Epitaph Road” and his new novel “Fast Backward.”

“Kids think authors are out there, inaccessible, so it’s good to put a human face to a book,” Patneaude said. “I tell kids I had that same idea— I never met an author and none came to my school.”

Claudia Browers is a former McKnight Middle School teacher, and now volunteers at McKnight and the after school program After School Across the Street. She knows Patneaude personally and asked him to come speak at the summer program, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP).

GEAR UP is a federal grant, providing summer programs that help middle and high school students earn skills to get closer to post-secondary education. The program finds fun ways to cover topics like math, science and English/language arts.

This is the first summer the GEAR UP Summer Enrichment Camp is in Renton School District, hosted at McKnight, as well as Dimmit Middle School and Nelsen Middle School. The University of Washington received a grant in 2018 to begin a seven-year GEAR UP program with Renton, as well as Tukwila, Auburn and Kent school districts.

Breakfast, lunch and transportation are provided to students. GEAR UP Coordinator and teacher at McKnight Wendell Ellis said the teachers are developing outside the box curriculum.

“This is not for credit, so this is purely fun. The students are here because they want to be,” Ellis said.

At Nelsen Middle School, students recently went to Springbrook Trout Farm, explored fairy tales for English/language arts, used science to understand rollercoaster mechanics and will soon travel to Pacific Science Center. They will also enroll in the Renton Police Department mini-police academy to learn about forensics, according to the school district.

The program runs at the three Renton schools July 8 to Aug. 1, Monday through Thursday for about four hours a day.

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