This year’s Summer Institute (SI) was marked by numerous exciting, first-time happenings. Highlights of the increasingly popular program included an inaugural summer science research class, a visit from a coding expert during a new computer course and a bake sale that raised money for the Humane Society.
Held on the upper school campus from June 15-Aug.7, SI was open to both Harker students and those from area schools in grades 6-12. SI allowed participants to get a jump start on the coming school year, as well as enrich their learning on topics of interest.
SI has two tracks: one designed for middle schoolers and another for high schoolers. Many students combined a morning academic program with afternoon activities. Falling under the academic umbrella was a new course called “Summer Science Research Society.” Taught by middle school science teacher Kathy Peng, the offering gave participants in grades 6-8 the opportunity to explore and research real world topics of individual interest.
Meanwhile, a chocolate chip cookie baking project and sale, sponsored by a new SI math class, raised $283.53 for the Humane Society of Silicon Valley (http://news.harker.org/summer-institute-math-class-raises-money-for-humane-society). “Lots of math was used to calculate how many cookies we could bake within our limited class time and oven constraints. In addition, the students had to determine the shopping list and recalculate a recipe based on that,” reported Eileen Schick, who taught the three-week summer school course called “The Eagle Project: Math!”
Another new offering for grades 6-8 was “Beginning Python,” taught by Mike Schmidt, Harker’s middle school computer science department chair. Python is a widely used general-purpose, high-level programming language. Harker alumnus Abhinav Mathur, who graduated from the middle school in 2004, designed the instructional software Schmidt used in the class. Mathur, a former student of Schmidt’s, came to campus in June to speak to the 17 students enrolled in the course.
Mathur created a website called Pythonroom.com, an online learning environment for the Python programming language. He and another young entrepreneur, Keshav Saharia, founded a company called HulaLoop, which provides educational platforms on the web for various programming systems of which Pythonroom is currently their main focus.
“I had been using their product for my newly created Python programming course to teach middle schoolers the world of text-based programming. The kids were crazy about it and absorbed all the lessons like sponges!” recalled Schmidt. Pythonroom provides a solid foundation to the world of Python programming by allowing students to move forward at their own pace, he added.
“I think Pythonroom is great for beginners and it is really fun,” agreed Angela Cai, a rising grade 7 Harker student who attended the class.
“Abhi was a great (guest) teacher, and he gave great advice on finding easier ways to do certain problems,” added Stephen Yang, a rising grade 8 student at Miller Middle School.
Noting how excited he was to be back at Harker, Mathur said he was glad to give back to the school that provided him with so much. “We (at HulaLoop) are passionate about spreading coding knowledge to all students, and progressive schools like Harker make this goal achievable,” he said.
After the morning academic sessions, many SI students stayed on for the afternoon activity program, which included an array of specialty classes and recreational activities. Some students in grade 9 also signed up for the afternoon activities.
“We had a wide variety of weekly fun classes that the students signed up for, which this year included a field trip to the Oakland Zoo, an Ice Age Carnival, a Red, White and Blue Bash, and a visit to Golfland,” recalled K-8 history department chair Keith Hirota, who was in charge of SI academics and activity programming for the middle school students.
Although they were not eligible for the afternoon activity program, students in grades 10-12 were welcome to stay on campus to swim, study, shoot hoops and socialize. While the majority of the older students were primarily concerned with earing credits, many took time out for some summertime fun.
“The Summer Institute continues to grow and this year we had more than 1,300 students signed up for classes on the Saratoga campus!” reported Kelly Espinosa, director of summer and preschool programs.