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A splash of summer knowledge

Summer is a great time for students to refresh their bodies and their spirits, but what about their minds?

"The summer is a fun time to relax -- and relax your brain a little bit, but just refreshing it a little bit even for three minutes is important," Middleton Elementary second grade teacher Megan Zachman said. "They lose so much over the summer that they need a little bit of a kick-start."

Zachman is hoping to help students with that kick-start through a new online summer course she started called "Almost a Third Grader."

The course is available to students at all District 833 elementary schools.

Zachman said second grade is the perfect time to launch an online tutor program like this since second graders have such a thirst for knowledge.

"At this age, they just want to do more, learn more," she said. "They still love learning in school."

Additionally, Zachman said getting refreshers during the summer before third grade is important because third grade brings in harder concepts.

"Third grade is such a pivotal year," she said.

The program

"Almost a Third Grader" is set up so students can visit the website three times each week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday - to go through three separate lessons in math, literacy and even a couple in science.

"We thought, 'Let's do something fun that kids can access on their own," Zachman said.

Each lesson, dubbed "Summer Splash," includes a video about the lesson, review games and activities, and a third grade challenge.

"It's a little splash of review to keep the kids refreshed," Zachman said. "Plus it gives them a little taste of what it's going to be like next year in third grade - we want to plant a little seed in their brain."

The first video went up on June 10 and attracted more than 100 users, Zachman said.

A total of 36 videos will be available by the end of the summer.

The "Summer Splash" lessons aren't your typical classroom lessons though, Zachman said. They incorporate games, puppets, skits and other fun ways of engaging students.

"We knew we had to do something fun," she said. "We can't do something boring like me teaching a lesson at a whiteboard and worksheets aren't always the most fun to do over the summer."

In addition to the lessons, the "Almost a Third Grader" website also features a daily poll, a lesson schedule, popular websites that teachers used throughout the year and some popular educational applications.

"It's something different and unique," Zachman said.

Zachman started working on the "Almost a Third Grader" website in April and she is still working on the videos.

"It's worth it just to know that kids have a resource like this," she said. "The more people that use it, the better I'll feel. It's been a fun project."

Zachman said she decided to launch the program because she has seen how many students struggle to remember what they learned the previous year.

"The kids aren't as refreshed as they could be in the fall," she said. "They don't have anything to keep them on task and keep those skills refreshed."

Additionally, Zachman said she wanted to find something to help students catch up, and private tutoring or summer school can sometimes be difficult for parents.

"During the school year, they might feel a little burnt out, so why not present it in a fun way," she said. "It's a great chance for kids to catch up and make up some ground."

"Almost a Third Grader" can be found at

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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