My husband still talks about the boat that he and a friend built one summer over 20 years ago. They sweated away in the garage while their friends were playing and spent all of their savings on new materials as they failed repeatedly and had to go back to the drawing board. But eventually, that boat floated. And my husband hasn’t backed down from a challenge since.
Most children these days do not grow up in an environment where they can spend all summer home alone tinkering in the garage and riding their bikes to the store for supplies. Summer Spark recreates this experience, in a safe, supportive environment, enhanced with the best-practices I’ve learned through a decade in the classroom on how to create community and inspire children.
Working in child-centered environments where hands-on learning was paramount has made me a believer in the power of giving children challenges, equipping them with basic tools and know-how, and setting them free to explore and create. Through these experiences, they become better problem solvers, learn to collaborate with peers, and gain confidence in themselves.
An early love for children had me babysitting on the weekends through middle school and high school, and working at an after school program in college. My fascination with child development, led me to a degree in developmental psychology and education.
I spent the first few years after graduation training and teaching at a traditional Montessori school where I was able to see all of theory I had studied applied – and it worked! The children thrived in an environment that was designed specifically for them instead of one that they had to struggle to fit into.
As the founding teacher at Acton Academy in Austin, TX, I had the opportunity to incorporate the Montessori concepts of a child-centered environment and freedom within boundaries into a curriculum that emphasized project-based learning and peer mentoring.
My students came alive as they engaged in projects that sparked their curiosity and allowed them to explore and create with their hands. Fostering a strong community and guiding students to collaborate with each other instead of seeking help from their teachers empowered the students and enriched their learning experience.
With Summer Spark, I am excited to make this type experience available to more children.
My passion for children and the developing brain has kept a parenting or teaching book in my hands over much of the past 15 years, and a have a short list of favorites that all the counselors become familiar with as part of their training. If you are looking for a good read, maybe one of these will provide you a spark:
- Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives; Peter H. Johnston
- Positive Discipline; Jane Nelson
- The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined; Salman Khan
- Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius; Angeline Lillard
- An Ethic of Excellence; Ron Berger
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success; Carol Dweck
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts; Susan Cain