Meridian students get creative at Wildcat University

Bianca Moorman/The Meridian Star

Raymar Jones, 9, beads a necklace during a jewelry making class at Wildcat University at T.J. Harris Elementary School. 

Raymar Jones is taking a break from his school work and getting creative this summer.

“We learned to make bracelets and necklaces,” said the 9-year-old, one of many students spending their summer at Meridian Public School District's Wildcat University. 

The program which started June 17, is for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Each week, students take two classes a day based on their grade level. Courses are offered at Ross Collins Career and Technical Center and at T.J. Harris Upper Elementary School and include  cooking, robotics, creative writing, STEM, gardening, health, and cosmetology. 

LaVonda Germany, the director of elementary curriculum for the district, said students can take two classes each week based on their interests.

Once the week is over, students are given two books, one fiction, and non-fiction, to take home. The books are based on the subjects they chose, so they can learn more about the topic. 

Meridian students get creative at Wildcat University

Bianca Moorman/The Meridian Star

Jaliyah Tanks, 9, braids hair on a mannequin with her teacher, Lavesha Sharp, during a  class at Wildcat University at T.J. Harris Upper Elementary.

For Raymar, his favorite two classes so far have been jewelry and robotics, because he likes to create things with his hands.  

“We make stuff,” he said bashfully. 

Jaliyah Tanks, 9, said her favorite class was gardening, because she likes getting her hands dirty. It wasn't her first time in the garden, as she's done some planting at home. 

“Me and daddy planted flowers in our garden," she said with a giggle. "I told him I want a watermelon tree,” 

Marlyn Hunter, an interventionist at Parkview Elementary School, said teaching students gardening gives them many valuable skills. 

"A lot of kids don't understand how a tomato grows, so working and seeing they had a part in this, makes the light come on," Hunter said. "They understand gardening is a valuable tool as they get older." 

The classes are staffed by teachers and older students, such as Jaleya Curry, a rising senior at Meridian High School. Curry enjoyed the opportunity to help out younger students.

“They look up to us for guidance and I love it,” she said.

Germany said that based on the response this year, she hopes the program can be offered again, and possibly expanded to middle and high school students.

“It's something that we wanted to do for years," she said. "It's been excited what the kids have been able to do this summer.” 

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