Brookstone Schools Learning and Adventure Camp – Building Future Leaders!

By Jeanna White

“Who would like to tell our visitors about your invention?” asked the teacher. Every student’s hand lept into the air.

My machine is the “mime machine,” Taylor eagerly explained. “You go through the machine and then you can make your mime do the things you have to do so that you can do the things you want to do.” Cameron described his “holiday chime” which would zap a person to Christmas or whatever holiday they thought about. Each fourth-grader designed their own invention after reading an article about gizmos, gadgets and gears.

Such enthusiasm is unusual in many classrooms, but not surprising at Brookstone Schools Learning and Adventure Camp.

The summer camp offered six weeks of fun, games, learning, field trips, and continued support during the summer months to 150 children in Uptown Charlotte. The goal of the camp is to equip urban students spiritually, academically, and socially for lives of future leadership and service.

This unique camp is a collaborative effort involving local churches, teachers, and dedicated volunteers.

Brookstone Schools, which opened its doors in 2001, is a non-denominational Christian school incorporating a biblical worldview into quality education for under-resourced families in Charlotte. Students learn not only facts but also how to use this knowledge in all aspects of their lives. They are encouraged and challenged to be respectful, mature, disciplined leaders who live in accordance with Judeo-Christian values.

The Mebane Foundation’s involvement with Brookstone Schools began in 2012 when the school was awarded a 3-year grant to launch their Summer Learning and Adventure Camp. Since then, the Foundation has invested more than $213,000 in this inspiring program. This year the Foundation provided a $25,000 grant for the camp and a $20,000 matching grant. The funds were used to subsidize the program, as well as to provide technology, materials, and professional development for teachers.

“I was introduced to Brookstone Schools by an old friend from my days at Wachovia,” said Mebane Foundation President, Larry Colbourne. “I visited Brookstone for the first time at the old location off of Lester Street. Since then the school has grown and relocated, but in the process has maintained its quality. In fact, the educational programs and curriculum are stronger than ever. Their approach is truly one that other schools should strive to model.”

Camp began each day at 9 a.m. and ended at 4:30 p.m. with before- and after-school care available. Mornings were spent practicing math and reading skills to help students stay on target for the upcoming school year.

“I think the summer camp is incredibly valuable,” said Suzanne Wilson, M.Ed., Brookstone’s Director of Advancement. “Research shows that students lose two to three months during the summer and that learning loss is cumulative over the years they are in school. However summer camp keeps their minds engaged and keeps them reading.”

Afternoons offered enrichment and fun as local churches provided Vacation Bible School and a wide range of activities including arts and crafts, tennis, soccer, kickball, and other outdoor games. Campers enjoyed field trips to the Bechtler Museum, Jetton Park, Cane Creek Park, and the Cordelia Pool.

Teachers used Summer Success: Reading, a six-week summer school reading program, to provide engaging instruction in reading, vocabulary, and writing. The program’s weekly themed magazines motivated students with high-interest fiction and nonfiction articles. Interactive Read-Aloud Books were used to build reading skills and to introduce students to wonderful authors and genres. The program included assessment options for monitoring progress with pre- and post-tests and weekly self-evaluation.

This curriculum proved to be easy to teach while also fun and engaging. Topics and activities were tailored to meet each grade level’s needs. For instance, while first graders were singing and marching to a song about ants, third graders were completing a word building exercise in which they and a partner had five minutes to take an envelope of letters and make as many words as possible.

The summer camp also benefitted some students who have graduated from the Brookstone Schools program and are now enrolled in high school. Beginning the summer after ninth grade, they can apply to serve as junior counselors, volunteering their time the first summer and getting paid the next. Some have younger siblings attending camp. Others are simply excited about the opportunity to return to the school and serve.  

“Our junior counselors have done a fantastic job,” said Steve Hall, Brookstone Schools Head of School. “We are in our fifth week and they are still energized and excited and the younger kids are watching them and thinking, ‘I want to be a summer counselor, I want to do that.’”

“Usually we would say that a person needed to be in college to be a counselor, but it has been so neat to have our former students here. Their level of leadership and responsibility has set a wonderful example for our campers.”

Half of the campers do not attend Brookstone Schools, so the camp also provided their families with the opportunity to learn firsthand what the school has to offer.

“We hope many of these families will enroll in the school, which would a great plus from the camp,” said Suzanne Wilson, M.Ed., Brookstone’s advancement director. “We would love for the school to operate at full capacity so that we can touch as many students’ lives as possible.”

For more information about Brookstone Schools’ mission and summer program, contact Suzanne Wilson Suzanne.wilson@brookstoneschools.org.  

Private and Charter School Literacy Initiatives

Isaiah

by Jeanna White

In its ongoing effort to find the best means to help all students learn to read and succeed by the third grade, the Foundation continues to make investments in partnerships with schools other than traditional public schools and systems. Partnerships with private and charter schools have seen tremendous success in student growth and have provided valuable information toward developing literacy best practices.

For example, in 2015, the Foundation partially funded a private-public school partnership between Triad Academy at Summit School with teachers and students from Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina. Camp Pathfinder, a five-week session held on the Summit School campus, brought together ten public school teachers trained in the Orton-Gillingham reading methodology with thirty struggling students who otherwise would not have been afforded the opportunity to attend such a beneficial camp on a beautiful private school campus. Results from the camp were so positive that the Foundation agreed to fund $50,000 for an expanded camp for ten new teachers and fifty students during the summer of 2016. A private donor also pledged an additional $60,000 in support of the 2016 camp.

Over the past five years, the Foundation has also invested more than $125,000 with Brookstone Schools, a small private school serving some of the most needy school children from the downtown Charlotte, North Carolina area. Every year it’s “Straight to the Top” summer learning and enrichment camp has grown and produced great results. In 2016 it will serve approximately 120 children from its school enrollment as well as students from surrounding neighborhoods. The strong success of Brookstone has attracted many funding partners. In fact, in the spring of 2016,  the Leon Levine Foundation issued a $150,000 challenge grant to school supporters so that Brookstone might add a second kindergarten class in the fall. The Mebane Foundation pledged an additional $20,000 to help with the challenge portion of that grant.

Most recently,  the Foundation committed $25,000 to Horizons National; an award-winning, tuition-free, summer academic program serving low-income, public school students on the campuses of independent schools, colleges, and universities across the country. The Horizons partnership with The Oakwood School in Greenville, North Carolina will be the first of its kind in the state. The Foundation hopes to learn from this private school outreach model used by Horizons National, that has shown great success and promise elsewhere in the country.

The documents linked below provide additional details and background information on these important initiatives: