European edition, Friday, June 1, 2007

Just don’t call it summer school.

About 3,000 students across seven countries won’t be getting completely away from the classroom this summer. The Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe is offering a free summer enrichment program at 27 sites July 2-27.

But it’s not “summer school.â€

“The old stereotype of summer school being a drag is not there,†said Leo Orlando, chief of staff for the Isles District. “It’s not a remedial thing.â€

Parents were notified of the program earlier this spring and had the option of enrolling pupils in kindergarten through eighth-grade. Based on the number of interested students, DODDS set up its sites and hired teachers, said Deb Pohlmann, subject matter expert at the DODDS-Europe headquarters in Germany.

The teachers will include regular DODDS instructors, substitute teachers and teacher’s aides.

The program will be different from what DODDS offers during the course of the year, but not just something to keep students busy during the summer.

“It is ongoing, engaged learning, definitely not baby-sitting,†Pohlmann said.

Students will use material from Voyager Expanded Learning, which features a series of interactive “adventures.†In essence, throughout the four-week course, they’ll be acting as detectives solving mysteries or as scientists exploring subjects and conducting experiments.

“I’m usually not a fan of prefabricated material,†said Kim Mitchell, instructional systems specialist with the Isles District. “But the kids really enjoy this. It’s done in a stimulating, fun kind of way.â€

Students attend sessions from 9 a.m. to noon daily. Classes are broken down into three age groups — another benefit as far as Mitchell is concerned.

“They get to meet other kids of different ages,†she said.

Material, which features videos, Internet links and books, and plenty of hands-on experience are based around language arts and mathematics.

“There is also a lot of science and some social studies as well,†Mitchell said.

Pohlmann said the program is popular with students and parents.

DODDS-Europe started the program in 2003 in a few areas of Germany to help support parents deployed to Iraq. It’s been held across the continent for the last three years.

Pohlmann recalls one conversation a mother told her she had with her son.

“She said: ‘My son said I was the best mother in the whole world, because I let him go to summer school,’†Pohlmann said.

Stars and Stripes reporter Ben Murray contributed to this story.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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