Camps aim to bridge transition into middle and high schools

Dalewood Middle School is located at 1300 Shallowford Road.

Opportunity Zone summer bridge camps

Brainerd High School “CSI: BHS Crime Scene Investigation”› Dates: June 25-28› For: Rising ninth-graders attending any Hamilton County High School› Registration: 423-855-2615 or email Ruise_B@hcde.orgDalewood Middle School “Knights on the Rise”› Dates: June 11-14› For: Rising sixth-graders› Registration: 423-493-0323East Lake Academy“STEAM-u-lating Minds”› Dates: June 4-14› For: Rising sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders› Registration: 423-493-0334Orchard Knob Middle School “Buzzing to Success at OKMS”› Dates: June 11-21› For: Rising sixth-graders› Registration: 423-493-7793

Students in the Opportunity Zone have the chance to get a leg up on the school year through multiple summer "bridge" camps this month.

The camps - which will be held at Brainerd High, Dalewood Middle, East Lake Academy and Orchard Knob Middle schools - are intensive academic programs for students transitioning into one of the schools, as rising sixth- or ninth-graders.

The initiative is one of many launched this year to help support students in some of the district's highest-needs schools through a variety of wraparound services, such as streamlining of community partners and the implementation of community school models.

"Elementary to middle school is completely different," said Cheryl McCray, dean of students and coordinator of the summer bridge camp at Orchard Knob Middle School. "We wanted to add a short summer program, so when they come in August, they will be adjusted."

Each of the four camps will be unique based on the school's needs and goals. They are free and students will be provided transportation, as well as breakfast and lunch from the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga each day of the camp.

Orchard Knob's theme is focused on setting students up for success in middle school, whereas Dalewood and East Lake's are focused on technology and STEAM - science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Brainerd's theme was inspired by the district's new Future Ready Institutes, 21 small learning communities embedded in 13 of the district's traditional high schools, of which Brainerd has two - the Institute of First Responders and Forensic Science and the Institute of Aviation. Incoming ninth-graders will pretend to be forensic scientists and will investigate a crime through a project-based learning curriculum at the school's four-day CSI-themed camp.

"They will have to solve a murder, use their science, math and English skills to find and collect the evidence, and put together a presentation at the end," said Brittany Ruise, literacy coach and English department chairwoman at Brainerd High.

Ruise said she hoped students, who often may not know very many people when they enter high school, will be able to build relationships during the program.

"When they come to ninth grade they don't always know the correct path to take," she said. "Coming to the summer transition, they'll be able to meet teachers, get to know them and know we are there for them, so on the first day of school they can tell their friends, 'Hey, I met this teacher over the summer.'"

McCray also hopes incoming middle- schoolers at Orchard Knob will build relationships with teachers and other students over the summer and feel ready when the school year starts.

For most students, McCray said, middle school is a time of growth, and students starting sixth grade often decide "am I going to be a baby or am I going to be a teenager?"

Students at Orchard Knob will attend classes with sixth-grade teachers, meet with guidance counselors, work in the school garden and even pick out and decorate their lockers.

At Brainerd, they will get used to the bell schedule and changing classes and can meet with current students, the school's Future Ready Institute coach and community partners.

"Every day, they will have some type of activity where they meet someone from the community," Ruise said. "I hope students will get to build a relationship with the teachers they will have in ninth grade, become familiar with the school and most importantly, know that learning is fun and can be fun, even in the summer months."

Most of the camps are grant funded and have the capacity for about 50 students. Space is still available at all four camps.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.