Westerville middle school students will replace team building with Teen Building if they attend summer school this year.

Westerville middle school students will replace team building with Teen Building if they attend summer school this year.

Teen Building is a pilot program designed to help students solve problems, make good decisions, build self-esteem and learn to cooperate with others.

"It is a course the middle school counselors and some of their intervention teachers are developing to target some areas they think are particularly appropriate for middle school students," summer school principal Debbie Meissner told the Westerville school board on March 31.

She said the goal is to "help students be more academically successful by focusing on some different issues that sometimes get in the way."

Guidance counselor Ron Hoch, of Heritage Middle School, said April 17 the intent behind Teen Building is to use activities, games and active programs to help students mingle and learn how to cope with issues, problems and the types of things that come up in their lives.

He said Heritage guidance counselor Robin Shrilla and Genoa Middle School teacher Jodi Russell have been instrumental in getting the program going.

"A lot of students view summer school as punishment," Shrilla said. "We want the kids to participate in summer school, get skills and have it be an enjoyable experience."

She said the staff was considering physical education and recess break time as a way of restructuring the program to keep students interested, but the guidance department focused on team-building. She said she thought it would be good to incorporate some of those activities into summer school.

Hoch came up with the name Teen Building because the program deals with adolescent issues.

He said one of the games used to teach team building involves lining students up on a narrow board. They are then given instructions to line up by height, without stepping off the board. Shrilla said sometimes the students are not allowed to speak.

"They communicate without using voice," she said.

"It is a cooperative type of thing," Hoch said. "The purpose is to figure out ways to get along with each other."

Another game, Shrilla said, involves the students working to stretch and secure an elastic band with attached strings around a bottle.

"They all have to work together to open it evenly," she said. "They have to figure out how much stress and tension is needed to lower the band around this bottle."

They have to work together, listen to each other's ideas and compromise, she said.

Hoch said there will be two Teen Building classes, one for seventh-graders and one for eighth-graders. The seventh-grade class is also open to sixth-grade students who might want to take the seventh-grade summer school program, he said.

Last summer, he said, there were 22 students per grade level enrolled in the middle school program.

"We are hoping to have more this year," Hoch said. "The capacity is 30."

At a minimum, he said, there should be 40 students total in the program, which runs from June 23 to July 17.

Meissner said if Teen Building is successful this summer, it may become part of the regular curriculum.

"But we are piloting it in the summer to see how it works so that we can continue to refine it at least for the summer offerings," she said. "Then if the counselors really like it and we really think it will accomplish what we are hoping it will accomplish, there is always the opportunity to move forward."

Meissner said summer school coursework is consistent with the seventh- and eighth-grade curriculum offered during the school year.

"What we are offering is the opportunity for an inclusive program for students to get a variety of different subject areas that they need in one lump program in the summer," she said. "I really owe a lot of this to the counselors in the middle school because they were the ones that really got together and brainstormed on what the best offerings for the students would be, what was really needed and what would work best for our situations for our middle school students."