BY JACKIE MAGNO | HCISD WRITER
Silence fills a classroom at Travis Elementary as several students concentrate on crocheting. Across the hallway, other students laugh as they shake a Tupperware container filled with ice cubes and milk to create homemade ice cream.
This was the scene at several campuses last week as students participated in interactive and hands-on courses offered by HCISD’s Beyond thee Bell program, an annual initiative that encourages students to continue learning during summer vacation.
“Beyond the Bell began when teachers submitted a proposal for special interest projects such as pottery making, sign-language, and Folkloric dancing,” said Jennifer Silva, Beyond the Bell coordinator for Travis Elementary. “These are things that teachers are passionate about and want to share with the students of HCISD.”
Five girls donned colorful dresses on stage at Travis Elementary as they rehearsed choreographed dances to three traditional songs. While waving paper fans, their instructor CereliaDiaz cheered the students on during practice.
“My favorite part is everything,” one of the students participating in Folkoricosaid.
The enrichment camps, such as Folklorico and ice cream making in the Science Palooza course, are a great way for students to be creative, stay active, and develop valuable skills they can take with them into the school year, according to Silva.
“This program benefits students because it gives them an opportunity to participate in activities they might not otherwise try in a regular school day,” Silva said. “It gives them the chance to learn different things and see what interests them.”
Mariana Nandin, an incoming 3rd grader at Long Elementary, said one of her favorite enrichment camps has been making piñatas.
“We first got a balloon and pumped it with air. Then, we covered it with newspaper,” Nandin said while using paper-mâché to create her project. “I want to put flowers on my piñata with tissue paper and write ‘Ms. Moya’ on it, so I can remember her when I’m older.”
Juanita Moya, Nandin’sinstructor who also teaches Spanish at Memorial Middle School during the school year, excitedly engaged her students outside the traditional classroom setting.
“I think it’s a much more relaxing environment,” Moya said. “Here, the kids are able to enjoy themselves and have fun.”
Moya is also in charge of ¡HablamosEspañol!, an enrichment camp that teaches students foundational Spanish. She recalled a student who wished to continue her learning beyond the classroom.
“She was so excited, and said, ‘Please! Can you write it down so I can practice at home, too?’ So I wrote down all the sayings that we’ve covered, so that today when they leave, everyone has something they can continue to practice at home,” Moya said.
In addition to learning new skills, students partaking in Beyond the Bell interact with children attending other HCISD campuses.
“My favorite part about Beyond the Bell is seeing new people and making new friends,” Nandin said confidently.
Her instructor, Moya, agreed.
“We want them to learn, but we want it to be fun and hands-on,” Moya said. “Students are getting to meet new people, and that’s where Beyond the Bell has been so powerful this summer.”
Students may participate in enrichment camps until the second week of July. Enrollment remains open until then.
“There’s flexibility in the schedule,” Silva said. “There are morning classes, afternoon classes, and all-day classes, so parents can plan what schedule works best for their kids.”
Parents can register their children for available Beyond the Bell programs at hcisd.org.