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A quest for fun in learning

Veronica Whitney

Romero, a seventh-grader at Minturn Middle School and Pinones, an eighth-grader at Berry Creek Middle School, are among 28 students in the one-month-long SummerQuest, a free program for middle school students organized by Vail Mountain School.

In its seventh year, the July program is for students in Eagle County who need to improve math and English skills. In fact, no students from Vail Mountain School are in attendance.

“Most students who attend the program are in need of remediation because English is their second language,” says Maggie Pavlik, director of the program and a seventh-grade teacher at the school.



Classes are from 8 a.m. to noon. There are only three classrooms – for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Students have a home room, math, language arts, outside sports and electives. Electives this year include cooking, ultimate Frisbee, knitting, community service and journalism.

“I wanted to knit a scarf for my baby sister, but I didn’t know how to do it,” says Romero, who in the first two weeks of the program chose community service as an elective. “Knitting is fun and it gets easy the more you do it.”



Even a boy picked up knitting during the program, Pavlik says.

In the cooking classes, students learned to make pizza, muffins, crepes with chocolate, and quesadillas.

“I like learning to cook so that when I grow up I can get married,” Pinones says.



Pavlik does the recruiting in the spring. She goes to local elementary schools and talks to fifth-grade teachers about which students need the program, which is for students going to sixth grade. Participating students are asked to return the next two summers.

“They do improve in one month because the instruction is very intense,” Pavlik says.

Students take tests in English and math before the program start; then they are grouped according to the results. They are tested again at the end of the program.

Every classroom has a lead teacher, a college student – many are former graduates of VMS – and a high school student – sometimes a VMS student, as well.

There are field trips, too. This year, sixth-graders went to Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, seventh-graders went rock-climbing at Camp Hale and eighth-graders visited a college campus.

“This program is fun,” says Gladys Solis, in the program for the second year. “You get to learn new things and play with friends.”

The electives offer fun, new experiences to the students, Pavlik says, although math and English are the thrust of SummerQuest.

“The children are here to learn math skills and English skills more than anything else,” she says.

In language arts, Pavlik says, students complete many different projects. For example, one group of students has read “The Twits,” by Roald Dahl. Another group has read “Bunnicula,” by James Howe.

Students in other classes have been reading books of their choice, keeping a notebook with all the words they don’t know. They also wrote poems and short stories that will be on display upon graduation.

During math classes, students work on budgeting their own personal expenses by paying pretend bills with pretend checks. Another group works with integers on a number line. Students also play “Around the World” with flash cards, as well as “Math Bingo.”

Graduation ceremonies are Monday. Students will spend the day rafting.

SummerQuest is sponsored by the Vail Mountain School Annual Holiday Plant Sale, the Harbourton and Billings foundations, the Vail Valley Foundation, Alpine Bank, Wal-Mart, El Pomar Youth in Community Service (Coronado High School) and Vail Resorts.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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