More than just books: Mount Ulla Elementary Summer Library Days

Published 12:05 am Thursday, July 6, 2017

MOUNT ULLA — Thursdays at Mount Ulla Elementary School are called Summer Library Days, but in reality, they are much more.

Playing in the dirt, squishing homemade slime, and discovering ideas from books were all on the agenda for last week’s Summer Library Day.

Every Thursday from 8 a.m to 4 p.m., Summer Library Days are open to any children in the community who want to come. Last week’s session was the third of this year. They will continue for the rest of the summer.

“Parents are able to leave their kids if they want to and come back to get them. Children from the community are welcome to come play and check out books.” said Julia Heilig, Mount Ulla’s media specialist.

Heilig said students are free to leave throughout the day, but they are welcome to stay the entire time as well.

The schedule goes something like this: Learning about gardening and playing with robots in the morning, then reading time and craft time in the afternoon.

West Rowan High School’s FFA helped Mount Ulla Elementary plant a garden that the students weeded and watered last Thursday. They are growing watermelon, squash, zucchini, banana peppers and more, and the students get to take home whatever they want of the harvest.

Student Drew Burton watered the watermelons in the hot sun with his brother, threatening to get him wet with the water hose before the morning was over.

“I really liked pulling the suckers out of the tomatoes and pulling the weeds,” said Burton, his fingers covered with dirt.

Susan McLaughlin, Mount Ulla’s technology facilitator, said this is the first time the school has offered activities aside from just opening the library during the summer. Organizers decided to add activities to get more kids involved — and it has worked.

“We typically have between 25 to 30 kids in the afternoons,” said Heilig. “Some kids come in to play with robotics and then they stay to read and do crafts because they are having so much fun.”

Later on in the afternoon, more kids came to the school to make the craft of the day: slime.

About 25 students scattered about the media center, pulling and squishing their homemade slime at their work stations.

One student, Mylee Hambright, explained the slime making process best: “We mixed up glue and baking soda and another thing that has a long name. And then we put glitter in it. And now it’s slimy! Look; touch it,” she said, holding up her slime and stretching it out with her little fingers.

The students not only have a lot of fun at Summer Library Days, but the activities keep their minds sharp for the beginning of the school year.

Heilig said that summer slide is one of the biggest learning obstacles for students, but having Summer Library Days keeps the kids in a learning curve throughout the year.

“We were looking at student data, and kids were doing their best academically in December,” said Heilig. “But then they weren’t getting what they needed during the summer. We really just want to stop the summer slide from happening.”

Heilig and McLaughlin both stressed the importance of showing the students that they are capable of learning all the time — even in the summer when school is out.

“Trying more activities has been a learning process, but I can see how we can continue to grow this project into something even bigger in the coming years,” said McLaughlin. “It’s been amazing to see how far we’ve come already and what kind of impact this will make on the kids.”