The St. Johnsbury School will be on fire this summer. Fortunately, it’s not the kind of fire that requires the attention of the fire department. Instead, it’s the combustion from young brains working hard on interesting and important work.

“CatCH Fire” is the name of St. Johnsbury School’s new summer program for current K-8 students. Available free of charge to all students residing in St. Johnsbury, the program focuses on academics and social-emotional learning in the morning and project-based learning with community members in the afternoon. CatCH is short for “Catamount Community Hours,” highlighting the district’s belief that resources for learning extend beyond school walls — to the people, institutions, and places that make the Northeast Kingdom great.

Tara Goreau, for example, is an artist whose capstone project as a senior at St. Johnsbury Academy was designing a mural for the Kiwanis pool. With Tara as guide, elementary students this summer will transform a concrete retaining wall into a colorful canvas, and middle school students will muralize some of the school’s long hallways.

A local carpenter, Ashley Phelps, will introduce elementary students to tools and building essentials (e.g., measure twice, cut once) and will apprentice middle school students while constructing a simple outdoor classroom. Students from Northern Vermont University will help the school’s middle school athletes improve their fitness and skill in soccer and possibly another sport.

Such afternoon projects will leverage the language, math, and social-emotional smarts that students develop in the morning. Small-group instruction by licensed teachers will focus on what individual students need to become even better readers and quantitative thinkers. And the important skills of knowing and regulating oneself, as well working well with others, will be exercised mostly through games and challenges.

These opportunities are free to St. Johnsbury youth thanks to the financial support from two programs. One is the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, a federal initiative to address the impact of COVID on students’ education. The other is the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21C) program, the federal government’s long-term investment in learning outside the regular school day.

For more information about “CatCH Fire,” and to register for one of the limited spots available, visit http://bit.ly/CatCHsummer21 or call the St. Johnsbury School at 745-2829. Registration deadline is May 15.

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