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Learning spills over into summer at RHS

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This time of year most high school students want nothing more than to make it to the final day of school and head off into three months without homework. But some Rosemount High School students are already making plans to return to class just days after the final bell rings.

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The summer months, long considered a time for remedial work, are turning into an opportunity for some of the school's brightest students to get a jump on the coming year's classes.

The trend isn't entirely new. For nearly a decade now, RHS has offered a summer class in honors geometry. The class gives freshmen interested in taking AP calculus as a senior a chance to get on the right track.

"It's kids that are motivated," said Michelle Robohm, who is in her fourth year teaching the summer class. "Maybe they don't love math, but they see the benefit in being in the higher-level math courses."

Principal Greg Clausen expects as many as 60 students to take the geometry class this summer. And now the class, which squeezes a year's worth of math lessons into about six weeks, has spawned a host of other summer opportunities. In lessons that run anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks, RHS teachers will offer what the school is calling enrichment opportunities in history, biology and math.

All of the sessions are free to students.

Clausen said the idea for this summer's classes came from teachers, many of whom already offer similar programs informally.

"This is a more formal approach that we're trying to take," Clausen said. "This is our first attempt, and I'm really hopeful that this will catch on. I've already had some teachers thinking about next year."

Biology teacher Heather Bender will offer a two-day AP biology session this summer. She'll ask students to complete a pair of assignments they would otherwise have to do next year over their winter and spring breaks. Her summer class will meet once in July and once in August. The assignments will cover evolution and ecology.

"It's not mandatory. I'm just really kind of doing this year to see the interest level," Bender said. "To see how many kids end up following through."

Bender said she's excited to have her first meeting with students next week to hand out textbooks and let them know what she'll expect of them over the summer.

AP world history teacher Patricia Medlin is excited, too. She started developing the curriculum she'll use this summer four or five years ago and invited students registered to take AP history the following year to come in on evenings and weekends to prepare themselves. Medlin said many students are unprepared for the amount of writing and research the college-level course requires.

"We decided quite a few years ago that some of our students needed that little extra leg up before we started our AP classes," Medlin said.

She hopes offering the course during the summer, when students have fewer sports or other co-curricular commitments, will help draw a larger group of students.

In her two-day summer session she'll work with students on critical analysis of historical documents. She'll also help students improve at organizing thoughts before they write.

The school will also offer a summer session for students interested in preparing for the math portion of the ACT test.

Some students might balk at the idea of returning to school at a time when most are focused on catching their breath or working summer jobs. But Robohm sees plenty of benefits to offering students chances during their break to expand their minds.

"I just think it gives kids that opportunity to get to the place they want to get to," she said. "It helps kids with study habits. I think it helps kids with test scores in general.

"In the past a lot of the summer opportunities have been targeted at the lower-end students. Students who are struggling," Robohm said. "I think the higher-end students -- sometimes they get pushed aside."

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