Several New Albany students took a refresher course in reading and writing this month.

Several New Albany students took a refresher course in reading and writing this month.

Over the past two weeks, the New Albany-Plain Local School District held its annual reading and writing academy for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Tina Wyant, academy organizer, said it's a good tool to keep children learning during the lazy months of summer.

"Basically, it's a nice refresher course in the middle of the summer for reading and writing," she said. "The kids get to work on their reading strategy and comprehension, and teachers are doing it in a fun and engaging way."

Usually, older New Albany students volunteer, but Wyant said one high-schooler and one middle-schooler volunteered this year.

"The turnout (of volunteers) this year wasn't great, but it's not such a bad thing," she said. "We hired more teachers so we have bigger class sizes -- between 10 and 13."

This year's turnout on the learning side of the program was significant, though.

"In this building, we have 2-6 (grades), and we have about 135 this year, which is up from 50 kids last year," Wyant said. "At the K-1, they have 76 kids and this is the first year that they've had it, and it includes incoming kindergarteners."

Although participants give up their mornings for two weeks, Wyant said, they try to keep the children interested and engaged.

"In a second-grade classroom, they're doing a science experiment and writing about it. Then they're going out to the wetlands and taking pictures and using descriptive words for them," she said. "We're trying to pull in some engaging activities in the summer."

The older student volunteers also get to have some fun while assisting teachers. Wyant said the middle school volunteer accompanied second-graders to the wetlands.

The high school volunteer was placed with a bigger class and does proofreading and small-group work.

Students also are using district technology. Wyant taught fifth grade and then technology to fourth- and fifth-graders. Now she does technical education at the 2-5 building. During the academy, she makes sure students get some technology time.

"This week we have the teacher using SMART Boards," Wyant said. "We have the kids using digital cameras. Anything with technology is a hook for kids, but it's more: It's engaging."

Despite the use of district technology and teachers, Wyant said, the reading and writing academy is not taxpayer-funded.

"It's self-funding," she said. "It doesn't touch district funds at all."

Wyant said her son is an academy participant, and she paid about $180. She said it's money well-spent.

"It's two weeks, and he's in a class of 11 so he's getting lots of individualized attention from a certified teacher," Wyant said.