Math, reading, and a little improv |

Math, reading, and a little improv

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyMaria Villarreal, 12, does her best interpretation of a valley girl news anchor during drama class Thursday at the Summer Quest program at Vail Mountain School.

VAIL, Colorado ” Maria Villarreal is giving us the news, Paris Hilton style.

She and her classmates are playing an improv game where they’re producing a television news cast as an unlikely crew of characters. Villarreal happens to be a “valley girl,” and her top story is a stream of gibberish filled with the word “like.”

The co-anchor is a fashion model, who mugs in front of the imaginary television camera as starring in the music video for Madonna’s “Vogue.” Her top story is how a Vail Daily photographer was taking wonderful pictures of her.

The sportscaster is a textbook computer nerd, constantly wiping his nose and pushing up his glasses. The weatherman is a hillbilly, whose forecast is, “Looks like a good day for growing crops.”

Drama and improv is one of the electives at Summer Quest, a program run by Vail Mountain School. The program is designed for middle school students who are learning a second language and need a way to keep up their English and math skills over the summer.

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The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Many students, if they’re not able to join a camp, summer school or sports team, end up losing a lot of language skills over the summer, especially if their families speak nothing but Spanish, said director Collins Canada.

A program like Summer Quest keeps their language skills sharp, while also giving them something fun to do.

“It helps bridge that gap so there’s no loss of language acquisition,” Canada said.

A typical day at Summer Quest begins at 8 a.m. There’s a couple hour-long math and English classes separated by a half hour of recess. Class still feels like class, with vocabulary tests, multiplication tables and fractions, but it’s a little more informal with more creative lessons and games, and the students seem to have fun writing in their journals and reading books like “Freak the Mighty” and “Travel Team.”

The classes are followed by an elective period in which the students choose between drama, arts and crafts, cooking and an outdoor nature exploration. The electives are a way to make Summer Quest feel less like a typical school day, but still give students a chance to do something productive.

The drama class helps the students build confidence, teacher Kelsey Mureau said. The students may be a little timid at first, then they sort of break out of their shells and have no trouble acting outlandish in front of each other. Some of them realize that drama is something they’ll want to try in high school.

It helps that their teachers join along in the madness, Mureau said.

“They see their teachers acting strange, and they become more willing to try things,” Mureau said.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or

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