At a glance
- Girard Middle School plans to hold a STEM summer camp in June, expects around 100 attendees.
- The summer camp will draw from Pitsco STEM lab materials and will include field trips and physical activities.
Darius McKay is passionate. The Girard Middle School principal is
on a mission not only to remove his school from the “failing” list in
Alabama – accomplished during his first year at the helm – but also to
give his students opportunities and experiences that help them gain an
academic edge over their peers.
Even during the summer, while most
students will be on summer break, McKay
expects a large number of Girard students to
attend a new STEM summer camp, which will be held
from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each weekday in June. Getting students to choose
another half day of school for part of their summer
shouldn’t be difficult if Girard’s voluntary after-school
program that includes STEM is a
“We’ll probably have about 100 this summer,”
McKay says of camp attendees. “If it’s any indication
of how it will work out, our current after-school
program is going well, so we’re hoping to carry on
that same success.”
A comprehensive summer camp is being planned
– plenty of hands-on STEM activities that utilize
materials in the Pitsco Education STEM labs, as well as
weekly field trips and physical activities such as dance
and boxing. “The academics are important, but they
also need to be kids. They need balance, so we’re
going to provide that as well,” said McKay.
Ultimately, the second-year principal hopes that
an emphasis on coding, computer programming,
and robotics will enable students to avoid the
well-documented summer loss that can occur
when students receive little to no academic
enrichment during the summer months.
And he hopes a low-key approach helps
students overcome fears tied to regular
school courses in which they receive
grades (not the case in summer camp).
“That’s another positive aspect of
the summer program. You’re no longer
experiencing summer loss, but you’re
actually experiencing gains,” he said. “We
have to create an environment that’s not
judgmental, where we make it comfortable
for them to make mistakes. We will constantly
tell our students, ‘Hey, we want you to
fail. That’s OK. We want you to