A summer of enrichment

Recipe packets line Paradise Canyon Elementary’s cafeteria counter and ingredients for almond cookies are prepped. Summer school students are coloring flags for display in Jamie Sennett’s Cooking Around the World class.

Students across campus wrapped up this fifth and final week of summer enrichment classes by rehearsing for performances and touching up art projects for exhibition today and tomorrow.

The Assistance League of Flintridge, a philanthropic non-profit organization, has administered the summer school programs in La Cañada to students entering grades 1-8 since 1978, when voter approval of Proposition 13 left La Cañada Unified School District without funds for summer school.

For $150, students can choose up to three classes, including cartooning, jump rope, historical architecture, band and musical theater for grades one through six; and ceramics, public speaking and tennis for grades seven and eight.

“Summer school has gone very well,” said Barbara Mello, co-chair of the league’s summer school program. “We’ve had an opportunity to send 660 kids through a wonderful enrichment program. It’s varied with music, drama, sports, academics, but always with the intent of having learning be fun and kids enjoying their summer.”

On the stage of the auditorium Tuesday morning, jump-rope students practiced tricks for the upcoming performance for parents. Across the blacktop playground and tucked away in an air-conditioned portable classroom, John Tegmeyer’s intermediate band students counted through a series of tricky measures of music.

“When I was a kid and summer came around, it was like, ‘Hey, let’s go crazy,’” said Tegmeyer. “But they’re such great kids. They’re here, they really want to be here and I think, for them, being able to see their progress exponentially over the course of one month from ‘We’re OK,’ to ‘Wow, we’re really good,’ is a really motivating factor.”

While Tegmeyer’s students continued rehearsing “Troubadour” from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Carmen,” student Asher Follett read her story of a bear mauling to the ‘Here’s the Scoop’ classroom. During the summer session, Scoop students became campus reporters — planning stories, conducting interviews and writing features.

“I like to write creative stories, so I thought I might want to be a news reporter to see what it was like,” said Asher. “I like writing and sharing news stories, even if some of them are not true.”

Outside on the field, Coach Curt Chase gathers Frisbees from his students, and then divides them up into two teams for a game of line soccer.

“I want to expose them to a variety of sports, and hopefully they will continue to play these,” said Chase. “We call the class Sports for a Lifetime. This is not just for today, not for this year, not for the summer, but something they continue to do for a lifetime. That’s our goal.”

With 15 minutes left in second period, cooking students huddled around a dozen balls of almond cookie dough as Sennett demonstrated how to lightly push an almond into the center of each cookie. Recipes for this summer covered chicken salad pitas, fruit crunch from Uganda and chocolate chip scones from Scotland.

“These kids — because they’re from La Cañada — their palates are pretty sophisticated,” said Sennett. “We made albondigas soup, which is kind of spicy, but the kids loved it. They liked the sweets most, though, so I think it was a toss-up between the chocolate torte from Germany and the chocolate chip scones from Scotland.”

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