By Deb Malewski

Contributing Writer

— Summit, a project-based learning method, is in its second year at Eaton Rapids’ Greyhound Intermediate School (GIS). Summit is geared towards helping students connect the skills they are learning in class with what they want to achieve after graduation — with a focus on “projects” the students complete.

District superintendent Bill DeFrance said Summit is used as a “supplement.”
“Teachers use Summit as a tool to supplement their instruction,” DeFrance said. “It’s project-based learning and self-directed work for students enhance the learning environment.”

With this coaching, students learn to take ownership of their own progress, become aware of their strengths and areas that need improvement and develop independence and persistence. These are skills and habits that they can employ throughout their lives, explains the Summit program.

“It’s an internet-based program, mostly done on their tablets, but it still has all the regular things like teacher-led lessons, reading, gym, art and more,” said Danielle Raad, a paraprofessional at GIS.

“Summit also has mandatory mentoring with students,” Raad pointed out. “Adults on the Summit team have periodic one-on-one meetings to talk about school issues, home issues or to ask questions and help direct the student in what needs to be focused on.”

Sixth graders also come over from the middle school to help the Summit students.

“There are still teacher-led lessons on the board and on paper,” Raad explained. “They still have to learn the basics.
“There is freedom, but it is still structured. Kids who want to get ahead, can. It gives them a tangible, achievable goal to pursue. Parents can see everything, anytime, via the internet, and know if their student is on track or not.”
Joel Bohus, a fifth-grade Summit student, has been part of the program for two years and speaks excitedly about the opportunity.

“Summit’s the best,” Joel said. “The fun thing is that if a student wants to go ahead in their work, they can complete all their projects and go right into the next grade.”

“It really prepares you for middle school,” explained Xander Cornish, another fifth grader. “I’m very happy I got into the program, as there is only so much room.”

Summit involvement is initiated through parental request and is not based on grades.
“It’s a more creative outlet,” Xander said.

Sara Vogel and Alex Brooks teach the Summit program at GIS. Brooks teaches math and science while Vogel focuses on English and history.

“It’s my favorite thing.” Vogel said, when asked about the program. “Being able to personalize the learning path for a student is ideal.

“I am able to set my students up for success. They will learn habits and skills that will be needed throughout their life. In Summit, students take the responsibility for learning on themselves.”

She said Summit is a nationwide program that has existed for about 10 years.

“Summit learning is often better able to meet the needs of special education students, as we can tailor it to their abilities,” Vogel said. “It’s easy to change or add to the projects offered.”

As a Summit career exploration project, Brooks arranged for Adam Deuling of Deuling Designs to demonstrate bead rolling on a plasma machine for the Summit students. Deuling Designs is a sheet metal fabrication company in Muskegon.

Deuling calls his program a “mobile shop class.” He is concerned with the loss of shop class for many of today’s students and wants to expose them to options other than traditional college.

Deuling presented the students with a Greyhound logo he made by bead rolling it and then allowed them to create a design that they were then able to create on the plasma machine. Each student received a French curve that had been created with the machine and that they used to draw their design.


Photos by Deb Malewski

In the main photo, Adam Deuling is shown working with Summit student Joel Bohus. The entire group of GIS students learning from Deuling Designs is shown in the other photo.