Summer Program and Enrichment: A Day at Milner Middle School

Summer Program and Enrichment: A Day at Milner Middle School

Summer Program and Enrichment: A Day at Milner Middle School

Thursday, July 15, was a busy day at Milner Middle School’s Summer Program. At 11:15 AM students were engaged in academic courses, including English Language Arts (ELA), math, and social-emotional learning (SEL). On the main floor, near the cafeteria, one group of 7th graders was practicing dance routines performed by an instructor from United Rhythms, a community partner based in Meriden. After the 45-minute block ended, students would transition to either team-building activities outside or eating lunch before the afternoon of enrichment activities would begin.

The program at Milner is just one of the HPS Expanded Summer Programs across the district, which offer academic subjects, and enrichment in the form of arts and athletics, to students in all grades through the month of July. The combination of math, ELA, and SEL in the morning, followed by a range of engaging activities in the afternoon, was designed to support student recovery after more than a year of learning disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Summer Program presents an opportunity not only to combat some of the learning loss but a way for kids to feel some type of normalcy,” said Milner Principal Leanardo Watson. “I know the kids love how the day is designed based on their feedback.”

The Three Rs and SEL

At Milner, the Summer Program academic classes run each day from 8:15 to noon. They include 45-minute courses like Ms. Hrubiec’s ELA class for 8th graders who were writing about books they had chosen to read, or Ms. Titus’ math class in which students were working with Zearn online curriculum materials.

Math class is a favorite for 12-year-old Jaylyn Ortiz, second only to gym class. “We do times tables, decimals,” he said standing next to classmate Oscar Davila, also 12. Both students, who agreed that the Summer Program was fun, attended Global Communications Academy during the school year.

In addition to the traditional academic subjects, Milner students also receive SEL instruction from one of two school social workers. In Ms. Tyson’s class, a dozen 6th-grade students were playing a warm-up game called Split Screen to prepare for a lesson about “a different point of view”. It is part of a curriculum called Second Step that helps students build social-emotional skills, such as empathy.

“The social-emotional learning curriculum really focuses on improving individual social skills, their emotional regulation skills, and putting that to use to build better relationships with others,” she said.

It’s an offering focused on meeting students’ social-emotional needs, which have increased since the pandemic. “The students are responding well because the SEL curriculum is very interactive. It allows them to get up, to get moving, to learn the skills, to practice the skills, and to be able to use those skills in the future.”

Enriching Afternoons

Summer basketball!

After a morning of academic blocks, students participate in a range of enrichment opportunities developed in collaboration with long-term district community partner Catholic Charities. The offerings include cooking, volleyball, karate, flag football, basketball, dance, and more. One popular activity during the second week was a cupcake baking contest in which students had to bake a dozen cupcakes –and refrain from eating them all before they could be judged.

Athletics are also a big draw. “They love the sports in the afternoon,” said Watson, “and the fact that we have actual coaches.” The flag football program, for example, is run by Hartford Hurricane, a local youth football and cheerleading organization.

Milner’s Summer Program also offers leadership development for rising 8th graders called Milner Leads. Students in the program work together to plan community projects, including the upcoming National Night Out, an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie. Another component, Summer Survivor, is a school-wide competition that motivates youth to gain points while working on community-building projects and activities.

Principal Watson with student leader, Zahrayah Washington

Student leader and rising 8th grader, Zahrayah Washington, spends her afternoons helping to plan community-building events. “I like how although we’re still in summer school, we get to have fun but we’re also learning. It’s like a regular school day but we are here and extra hour because we’re having fun,” she said. Lessons she’ll take with her is how to prepare for 8th grade and set an example for younger students.

Connections and Caring Adults

Another benefit of the Summer Program is the value of existing relationships. “Every single student here knows a staff member or someone they can go to readily and easily,” said Watson. That’s because some staff members in Milner’s summer program come from other district schools like Global and SAND. “For our incoming students, it’s great for them to see a face that they’re familiar with.”

The academics, enrichment, and relationships all support the goal of recovery for the whole student. “I strongly believe that the more exposure that they get within the building talking to each other, working with the teachers in-person, that’s a huge benefit for the summer program that will carry on to the school year,” he noted.

Milner Middle Summer Program students enjoy a dance class


Social Emotional Learning (SEL) class with Ms. Tyson


Focusing on Mathematics


Global Communications Academy students, Oscar Davila (left) and Jaylyn Ortiz, with Principal Leanardo Watson


The Milner Leads Team prepares for the school’s big August 3rd National Night Out event.


Getting ready for the Cupcake Bake-off judging