Summer Spectacular gives future teachers experience

The program, in its 25th year, gives children ages 4-12 a hands-on learning experience.

The program, in its 25th year, gives children ages 4-12 a hands-on learning experience.

For the 25th year, Troy University is giving its education students a chance at hands-on teaching through its Summer Spectacular program.

The program, which began at the Dothan Campus and has now expanded to the Phenix City and Troy campuses, features TROY students leading a hands-on summer camp for children ages 4 through 12.

The annual learning enrichment camp takes place every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning in the month of June at the Dothan Campus, featuring project-based learning that focuses on making learning fun.

It’s also a valuable learning tool for TROY education students.

“As far as classroom management, I’ve learned a lot of that,” said Allison Snell, a 23-year-old elementary education student who is one of the teachers at Summer Spectacular. “Summer Spectacular is a constructivist approach, which is project-based and student-led. They, in a sense, teach us. This is my first year in this program, so I’m hoping they can teach me how to interact with them.”

The student teachers bring supplies and give them to the students, allowing them to build airplanes, bridges and buildings.

“We give them background information and guidelines, and we guide them in their decision making, but it’s very much their creativity and their ideas,” Snell said.

Dr. Cynthia Hicks, associate chair of the Department of Teacher Education, said the experience is particularly important for the TROY students because it’s a hands-on example of what they’ll face in the future.

“It’s a real-life practical experience for not only teaching but classroom management,” Hicks said. “You’re planning for instruction in a way that makes learning fun. We focus on project-based learning, so our students have to figure out how to integrate all service areas into projects and get students involved in them.”

Hicks said many of the young children who start the program end up returning every year until they “age out.”

“One of the things that cause our children to come back year after year is that they enjoy being able to be creative and explore,” she said. “So many times in school, we’re telling them to do things. Here, we’re asking them questions and getting them to look deeper and explore alternative ways of learning.”