Tuesday, August 4, 2015


When many children hear the last bell signaling that school is out for the summer, they hit the pool--not the books. Our Cook Library Scholars, however, are an entirely different caliber of student. They flocked to the Cook Library Center in July to continue their education as part of a group effort to diminish the summer learning gap. Led by Sue Garza and Monica Zavala, the CLS Summer Program provided many opportunities for students to grow, achieve, lead, and have an overall healthy dose of fun.

The CLS Summer Program faced a new challenge this year: the span of grade levels was the largest ever. The program boasted over thirty students, ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade. The challenge of providing programming to each grade level was met by taking advantage of the age gap and using it to encourage every student to learn at his or her own pace, while encouraging individualized life lessons, or “takeaways,” at the end of each day.

Applying life lessons to academics was the keystone of this year’s program, as the theme was adapted from the popular learning acronym S.T.E.M. Thinking the Cook Library Scholars way (which is thinking broadly and outside the box), the term morphed into S.T.E.A.M.M. which stood for science, technology, engineering, art, math, and music.

Each week was jam-packed with Sue and Monica’s specially created S.T.E.A.M.M. programming that promised new academic adventures and activities. While this type of fast-paced, ever-changing learning environment may be daunting to some students, the Scholars fervently dove into the daily activities. Every staff member, intern, and volunteer on hand constantly moved around the library instructing, praising, and validating the Scholars.

Meanwhile, the Scholars dug into learning as they built, dissected, analyzed, wrote, critiqued, created, and thrived—and did they thrive! With hands-on activities meant to boost motor, social, and critical thinking skills, each Scholar was able to engage in his or her own learning in a collaborative and individualized setting. Every minute was filled with opportunity. Even when the Scholars sat down for lunch, they were actively engaged with a member of the staff to discuss such topics as the expanding job market, the work ethic needed to succeed in a career, and the necessity of earning a bachelor’s degree in today’s economy.

When asked about the daily lunch lessons, one motivated Scholar summed up her takeaway this way: “I had never considered college to be an option open to me before, let alone having a job involving forensic science. Now that idea really interests me.” Through the CLS Summer Program, this same Scholar had the opportunity to travel to a chemistry lab at Grand Rapids Community College where she conducted an experiment with the Dean of Students.

GRCC was not the only community outreach effort this summer. Connections were made with The Rapid bus system during the Tobacco Free project; the YMCA visited the library to teach health, wellness, and physical fitness classes; a trip was made to GVSU’s Honors College campus to speak with the director of the program; and guest readers from the Grandville Avenue neighborhood came to lend their stories as the Scholars lent their ears.

In the CLS Summer Program, life and learning went hand in hand. With the combined effort of Scholars and staff alike, gardens were planted, stories were written, crafts were made, jobs were embraced, life lessons were learned, and connections between education and the real world were formed. The Cook Library Scholars are ready to tackle the next school year as they tackled each assignment and project during the summer program—with heads held high in true Scholar form and practice.

This month's guest blogger is Paige Dhyne who is the Cook Library Center's Summer Writing Intern. She is a senior Writing and Film/Video major at GVSU who plans to attend graduate school for a Masters in Library Science.

The middle school Scholars toured a blueberry farm to see how food-to-table farming works. Itzel, Angel, and Emmanuel are pictured here tasting fresh blueberries.

Jazmin and Miriam work together to measure out precise lengths of PVC pipe to make flutes.

Miriam and Jazmin share a laugh after playing the first notes of their PVC flutes.

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