Southern-tier charter working overtime to connect kids with their community

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There are tons of great charter schools in New York and Connecticut going above and beyond for their students. This means staving off the summer slide, either with an extended year or a robust program to keep their students engaged in these summer months. Today, read how Finn Academy: An Elmira Charter School gave its students some exciting hands-on learning opportunities to keep them going during the summer.

In a community that needs more quality school options, Finn Academy: An Elmira Charter School is working hard to keep students engaged and excited to learn. The first-year charter just wrapped up its two-week summer session, where all of the school’s 216 scholars enjoyed hands-on learning experiences that will help battle back the “summer slide.”

“Research shows that kids can regress in their academics over a long summer break. Having an extended year is required in our charter, and we wanted to find ways for our students to stay engaged throughout the summer months,” said Head of School Maggie Thurber. “The entire summer session was incredible. I can’t even put it into words.”

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Emphasizing literacy during the two-week session, Finn Academy had support from the community to help make the experience something special for the kids. A partnership with the Chemung River Friends gave students the opportunity to learn about river safety and the river ecosystem. Museum trips thanks to a partnership with the Chemung County Historical Society taught them about settlement along the Chemung River, and how the river has brought people together.

“We want our scholars to feel connected in multiple ways, whether it is with their peers, with adults or with the community. We wanted provide rich experiences for the children, and see them generate quality and authentic written products and connections to the community,” Thurber said.

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Even though the school is only serving kindergarten through fourth grade, it is never too early to instill belief in the students that they can go to college and be anything they want. To reinforce that, students spent a day at the Elmira College campus, taking a tour and meeting with the faculty so they can see what is in their future.

The school’s original and unique program is something families haven’t been able to find in the community, and established one of the most dedicated school communities we’ve seen. We had the pleasure of speaking with some passionate Finn parents for our New York Twenty series, and that same passion and dedication from the community carried over into the summer session.

“We’re really honored by how serious everybody has taken this,” Thurber said. “We had amazing attendance, which was great since we didn’t have transportation for the program. It is pretty remarkable to serve an at-risk population and see the families come together and prioritize something like this.”

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This meant parents rescheduling work hours to make sure their children made it. It also meant neighbors or grandparents bringing kids, families carpooling, all things that helped bring the community closer together to make sure the children had this opportunity to learn. One community partner offered daycare before and after Finn’s session to provide breakfast and dinner to the students.

And the children loved it.

Thurber said, “The highlight for us was to see the scholars want to get right back into it. They had a three week break between the end of the year and the start of summer session, and they really embraced coming back. They produced high-quality work and had a lot of fun.”

She continued: “Parents were excited to see their children have these hands-on experiences. We are going to survey them for more input to see how we can make this even better next year. This was exactly what we had hoped for. Providing more quality instruction any way we can will have such an impact on our scholars.”

Joe was the Deputy Communications Director for New York for the Northeast Charter Schools Network.
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Finn Academy scholars are working overtime to learn more about their community!
Southern-tier charter working overtime to connect kids with their community
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