by Jeremy Sierra
Summer school students from Leadership and Public Service High School sat in Charlotte’s Place, quietly focused on their computers, headphones on. No one spoke. They were all doing math.
The students were selected by teachers to participate in last week’s Math Camp to improve their math skills. Leadership’s summer school is two weeks long, from 9am to 3pm. The hours they spent at Charlotte’s Place each day were a welcome break for the students.
“Even the kids who are normally rowdy were laser focused,” said Leah Khevelev, one of the teachers from Leadership and Public Service High School.
After the first day, students made sure to show up at school on time so they could join the group going to Charlotte’s Place. In fact, a couple of students who weren’t originally chosen to attend tagged along one day because they heard from other students that it was fun.
Mike Miller, a teacher at the high school, said he had expected the normal hum of student voices, but instead it had been very quiet and focused all week. “They’re motivated,” he said.
They used a free curriculum called Kahn Academy. Students work on computers at their own pace, and can select which areas to focus on and access explanatory videos. Meanwhile, the teachers can monitor their progress. If a student is doing well, blue bars appear on the
teacher’s screen near the student’s name. If a student is having trouble, red bars appear, and the teacher can go help. On Tuesday, most of the bars were blue.
“It’s really amazing. Easy to navigate, very intuitive,” said Miller. “It allows kids to work where they’re at.”
The camp is part of the All Our Children Initiative, which partners churches with local schools. “This work is about mutual partnership," said Anita Chan, Trinity Wall Street’s Associate Director of Faith in Action. "We listen to our partners and work with them to identify solutions that bring together the talents from our community with the needs of the school to best serve all our children.”
After brainstorming with school leaders, Jenn Chinn, Program Coordinator for Charlotte’s Place, suggested the Kahn Academy curriculum, which has been adopted by some schools, but has not been used before on the East Coast.
“It’s a mutual ministry,” said Chinn, and fits with the mission of Charlotte’s Place to be a place where people have fun, do something different, and connect with others.
Principal Santos is very happy with the partnership between Trinity and the school. “Through the multitude of services offered by Trinity—tutoring, cultural events, our unique bell ringing program, the Khan Academy Math Camp, providing prom dresses to our graduating seniors, providing basic school supplies, beatification projects, yoga for staff, community service projects, etc.—our students, staff members, and I have been enriched, inspired and challenged.”
The teachers would like to do Math Camp again in February during the student’s winter break.
Ken Meyers, Associate Minister at Knollwood Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC, was among the volunteers at the math camp. He had heard about Charlotte’s Place, and was interested in starting a similar program at his church. “It’s a place where you connect stories, but there’s no pressure,” he said. “It lowers the wall of separation between us.”