Summer school offers varied experiences

Kendall McGowan, Managing News Editor

An emptier building and quieter halls are not the only characteristics of summer school.

This summer, while friends jet around the world on adventures or make new memories at sleepaway camp, between 350 and 400 students will attend classes here, according to Interim Dean of Students Scott Butchart, who directs the summer school.

Students from Brookline High School and other schools entering 7th through 12th grades choose to take one or more of the many six-week courses for a variety of reasons. For those not yet familiar with high school, the motives for taking summer school range from fun to preparation for the years ahead.

“7th and 8th graders can come do enrichment classes either for fun, like cooking, or they can do academic prep classes that their parents want them to take to be ready for the next year,” Butchart said.

Students from other schools come out of necessity or because their options for summer enrichment are limited.

“Kids come to make up classes they failed at other high schools, and a whole bunch of other kids come to do original credit classes that they can’t fit in their schedule at their own school,” Butchart said. “Not every school has a summer school.”

There are also plenty of students who attend to earn original credit in order to expand their class options during the school year, and, according to guidance counselor Ellen Herz, those concerned with impressing colleges should consider this option.

“I’ve never heard positive or negative [from the colleges], but I think it shows initiative on the student’s part,” Herz said. “I think it’s a positive.”

However, due to the time constraints, students are advised not to take many of the important core classes, as they cannot get as broad of an understanding of the material as they would during the school year. According to Science Curriculum Coordinator Ed Wiser, biology is one of these courses.

“The only reason to really take a summer school course like that one is to adjust for some strange situation,” Wiser said. “If your parents are taking you to the moon for a semester, or if you’ve got an opportunity with the New Zealand Philharmonic – just crazy stuff.”

Another such situation is the Chinese Exchange trip, which freshman Karun Mahadevan will take part in next year. Mahadevan said he plans on taking chemistry over the summer to make up for the semester of the class he will miss.

While teachers do their best to effectively compress a whole year’s worth of material into six weeks, there are noticeable changes, according to Butchart.

“I think that the teachers who elect to teach, especially the teachers who work here in the winter, are very clear on what the main parts of the curriculum that have to be mastered are, and that are credit-worthy,” he said. “It tends to be perhaps less depth and more breadth to cover the main topics that need to be covered.”

Mahadevan said he is concerned about the possible difficulties related to learning so much in such a short period of time.

“We will definitely be learning everything faster, so we can’t learn everything as in-depth,” Mahadevan said. “It will probably be a little bit harder to learn because it’s an equal amount of information in a shorter amount of time.”

However, junior Shahar Amitay, who took biology last summer, said he was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere of the class and lack of work outside of class.

“It was a lot more hands-on than I thought it would be,” he said. “There was a lot of – I don’t want to say ‘wasted’ time, but it was kind of this sense of not doing things to the minute. We would spend time watching videos. We would really delve into topics and talk about them for a long time and ask all these questions in order to understand it before moving on to the next thing. So there would be a lot of labs and demos, not a lot of homework for the amount of time that was spent in class.”

Junior Lucy Friedman-Bell, who took Advanced Placement U.S. History online and Latin III at the University of Chicago during her summer, was able to identify certain things she missed about the format of classes.

“At summer school, since you’re only doing one subject, it’s a lot more focused and it’s much easier to get bored,” Friedman-Bell said. “Sometimes it was hard to sit down and do notes or learn Latin for extensive periods of time, and it made me realize that in school, it’s nice to have lots of different classes because your attention span is longer because you’re learning different things.”

According to Amitay, there was a discernible difference in not just the amount and type of work but the ambience of the school.

“There was a sense of community because we were some of the only people in the school in the summer,” Amitay said. “We felt we were together, more than we would have been in other circumstances.”

Kendall McGowan can be contacted at [email protected]