Students fill summer break with education

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published July 29, 2015

 Brown shows students a program to use with iPads and robots.

Brown shows students a program to use with iPads and robots.

Photo by April Lehmbeck

HARPER WOODS — Harper Woods elementary students spend the afternoon in a hallway of the secondary school campus with little blue robots and iPads, working on programs that allow them to move their robots along a specific path.

In another room of the school, high school students work on computers in the film and video production course. Middle school students spend time tackling “Minecraft for the Classroom” in another space at the school.

All of this learning and more isn’t taking place on a typical school day, but during summer break. This year’s enrichment program is another success with students heading to school to have some fun with hands-on learning.

“This has been an incredible year,” Harper Woods Assistant Superintendent David Rabbideau said in an email. “We have had over 200 students take part in our enrichment programming to date, and we still have four weeks left to go.

“We’ve got a lot of things going on,” he said.

The program runs from late June through Aug. 7 with courses offered for children in first through 12th grades. From Lego robotics to coding, comic-book creation to water-bottle rockets, the district offers a number of possibilities in the summer program.

Students also have an opportunity to take part in the summer nutrition program on campus with free meals for any child in the community. There are still a few courses coming up in August. The schedule can be found on the district’s website,

During a recent session of the Make Wonder Bots course, teacher Kristen Brown explained how she was teaching the students how to use their iPads to code and control the robots.

“It’s pretty amazing to watch kids coming out of kindergarten be able to do basic computer programming and coding,” she said.

“There’s a lot you can do with these,” she said.

For instance, with an older group of elementary school children, Brown was able to have the students work on math problems and then program the robots to move to the correct answer.

The children seemed engaged in the class.

During the session, one girl clapped her hands and said, “I did it, I did it.”

Student Reece Lillard said he likes “how the robots are controlled by iPads.”

Kiarra Whitelow, the instructor for the Film and Video Production course, said her students were working with different programs for photo and video editing. She said there are some students in her class who are new to the technology, and others with a little bit of experience.

“They’re very open to trying new things, learning new things and making mistakes,” she said of the student’s work in the class.

While the students are learning, Whitelow said that the teachers get challenged, as well, through interacting with the material and students.

During one session, the students headed in and got right to work on the computers.

“One day, I kind of want to be a movie producer,” said student Mackenzie Galloway, who is going into the 11th grade. “I’ve always been really into the entertainment business and learning about that, as well.”

Her brother, Warren Galloway, who will be a freshman this year, signed up for the class, too.

“I wanted to learn how to edit videos, (and) put effects into it, as well,” he said.