Summer Learning for Elementary and College Students Alike

Thinking Camp 2015For students in the 2015 Thinking Camp, learning doesn’t stop in the summer. Taught by Austin College graduate students who are part of the Austin Teacher Program (ATP), Sherman ISD elementary school students gather at Jefferson Elementary School to explore topics of science, social studies, and culture for two weeks. In this summer’s program, entitled “The U.S. and Germany, More Alike than Different?,” these gifted and talented students are studying environmental sustainability and green thinking through the lens of German culture.

This summer marks the 13th year of the ATP Thinking Camp. The program, coordinated by Dr. Julia Shahid, Austin College education faculty, and Cyndi Petray, SISD gifted and talented teacher, was designed to provide a rich learning experience. The camp originally focused on students from Jefferson Elementary itself and included a small number of students. Since then, the Thinking Camp has grown to include this year’s 62 students, representing each of the SISD elementary schools.
For the elementary school students, the core benefit of the program is in its name: thinking. The camp encourages excitement, engagement, and cognitive activity. “Classes at the Thinking Camp are very different from those during the school year,” said ATP student Drea Hernandez. “The camp is designed to be a fun experience, so the students do many hands-on activities.” These students learn about German art, music, and culture in addition to the country’s impactful environmental policies, and they are encouraged to apply their knowledge. “My favorite part of participating is seeing the students’ engagement,” Hernandez said. “I love seeing students talk excitedly to their parents picking them up about the things they learned.”
For the graduate students of the ATP, the camp provides a fantastic opportunity to develop teaching skills. “These students will grow enormously as teachers,” said Dr. Shahid. “The experience builds confidence and helps them hone in on what it means to be teachers.” Using the general curriculum as a starting point, these ATP students choose topics to focus on, create lessons, form classroom rules and guidelines, and teach classes entirely. “I watch them develop day by day,” noted Dr. Shahid.  For everyone involved, the Thinking Camp is an enriching experience. “This is one of the most successful camps we’ve ever had,” confirmed Dr. Shahid.
The Austin Teacher Program (ATP) is a four and a half year program that introduces students interested in teaching to experiences in the classroom early in their education. By the time students complete the program, they already have spent considerable time in teaching situations. Students at Austin College major in a subject of their choice then complete a Master of Arts in Teaching in the semester following graduation. The primary goal of teacher education at Austin College is to prepare teachers who will have the breadth and depth of intellectual development achieved through a rigorous undergraduate liberal arts education. The ATP is fully accredited through the Texas State Board for Educator Certification.
Austin College ATP graduate students involved in the program include:
Christina Kline of Carlsbad, California
Drea Hernandez of Galveston, Texas
Diana Garza-Gonzalez of Denison, Texas
Kellie Day of Allen, Texas
Susie Fox of Richardson, Texas
Bliss Froehlich of McKinney, Texas
Rebecca Hardegree of San Angelo, Texas
Carla Garcia of Houston, Texas
Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic preparation, international study, pre-professional foundations, leadership development, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities. One of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with more than 36 percent of students representing ethnic minorities. A residential student body of 1,250 students and a faculty of more than 100 allow a 12:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention. The College is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. Founded in 1849, the College is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original name and charter.