GREAT FALLS — The grassy area near the gymnasium at North Middle School in Great Falls was turned into a launch pad on Friday as students launched model rockets as part of a two-week program designed to help them both academically and socially.
"The kids, over the past two weeks, have built model rockets using household items,” said Amanda Blair, a teacher at North Middle School.
This was the sixth time has conducted a model rocket building program for students.
"We made the motor mount, the parachute, and even the shroud,” said North Middle School student Gavin Vandyke when asked about his rocket.
"It was to work on social skills and math skills so that when they get to a point when they get really frustrated or angry they would use a coping skill,” Blair explained. "Then, it's a really fun way to put in math and science. Measuring, trajectory, and those sort of items."
When asked if he had learned any new math or science skills while working on his rocket, Vandyke said he measured everything there was to measure.
"It was alright,” Vandyke said when asked if that was challenging.
"Gavin has some extensive health issues that caused him to not be present during the school year, so he kind of fell behind a lot. This whole program, it's not just about the rockets. Gavin fell behind academically and socially and everything like that and this program has just brought out the livelihood that he was missing, it honestly has,” said Gavin’s mother, Shana Elliott. "It sounds exasperating and dramatic but it really has. He's excelled in math and he's excelled in wanting to be involved in things and his communication skills have surpassed anything that we've seen throughout the school year."
Blair enjoys getting to work with the kids through the program. She said the program is called ESY, which stands for Extended School Year, and said many Great Falls Public Schools teachers use the program.
"It is the best thing ever to watch them to have struggled and to learn math skills. it's just the best thing ever. It's the best thing ever when you see that light bulb come on in their little minds and in their eyes and they go off and it's exciting,” Blair said.
"This is a program that actually benefits children, it really, really does. A lot of parents should take advantage of it while they can,” Elliott said.
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