School Views: Summertime projects |

School Views: Summertime projects

Daniel Dougherty
Valley Voices

Congratulations to the nearly 7,000 students of Eagle County Schools and their families on completing another successful year of school. The summer break is well deserved and needed for developing brains.

The majority of the school district’s staff are also off for their summer break, with school principals wrapping up their administrative duties this week. The few that remain are busy already preparing for next year. We are truly grateful for our employees and the heart and dedication they bring to the community’s children.

As many parents can attest, summertime is when community support steps into the spotlight with a variety of camps, programs and activities. Youth Power 365 and its services to children provides a blend of fun and academic support to help reduce the “summer slump” students often experience. Parents can help with this by making sure your child has reading material, puzzles, games, and playdates to stimulate thinking and socialization continuously.

We are fortunate to live in an outdoor playground. Whether riding bikes, hiking, camping, rafting, or just taking the family dog for a spin around the block, summer is the time to put away the electronics and experience some real magic.

As a school district, we made some significant progress this past year with project-based learning and through a substantial $45,000 donation from Vail Health to purchase “Project Lead the Way” curriculum materials. The Vail Health donation funded Project Lead the Way and STEM education at Eagle Valley High School, Gypsum Creek Middle School, Gypsum Elementary School, Red Sandstone Elementary School, Red Hill Elementary School and Edwards Elementary School.

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The schools purchase Project Lead the Way materials that guide students through the completion of a project that exercises several different academic skills along the way. In the end, students also have the pride of having developed or created the actual project.

While each of these schools created terrific learning opportunities for their students with Project Lead the Way resources, two stood out beyond the “projects” themselves.

First, Edwards Elementary was designated as a distinguished Project Lead the Way school. Nearly 270 students in kindergarten through fifth grade participated in a Project Lead the Way program, earning them their national distinction.

Gypsum Creek Middle School introduced M-Term, a two-week project-driven intensive that radically changed the typical end-of-the-year wind-down. Instead, kids in grades sixth through eighth grade engaged in project-based learning that culminated in a parent exhibition presented by the students. The students ended the year on an exciting note, and parents were impressed with their abilities.

A quick internet search for “summer projects for kids” will give you fun and challenging project ideas for students. Narrow your search by age or grade-level, include your child with the search, and with minimal effort, you’ll have a list of fun projects to build solo, together, or with the whole neighborhood. And, for the young adults, many of the ideas take on significance for the community, with projects around sustainability, volunteerism, and even trailblazing.

Just make sure the projects aren’t completed in an electronic space — kids need the sun, the activity, the imagination, and the socialization that summertime provides. Projects not only reflect how adults apply our knowledge and skills — generally to complete a project — they are more engaging for students and help solidify their understanding through application.

Make this a project-based summer for your children and let’s see if it defeats the summertime slump at the beginning of next school year.

One last thing — use our website,, for food and mental health resources over the summer. Even though we take a break at school, our community is generous year-round!

Daniel Dougherty is the chief communications officer for Eagle County Schools. Reach him at

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