Program Profile: DotHouse Health Helps Students Find Their Creative Voice

Consider the following question: “If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you do?”

So begins a day at the DotHouse Health Center-Boston Public Schools (BPS) Summer Learning Academy site. There, 30 incoming 7th and incoming 8th graders are asked to response to writing prompts, such as the question above, all in an effort to help students find their creative voice and build a love for writing.

Nestled along Dot Ave, the DotHouse Health Center site offers a rich array of academic and enrichment experiences for students. BPS teachers lead ELA and math classes. In English, students read The Maze Runner and work over the summer on a culminating project – students can choose to write an essay about the book, write a letter to the author, or rewrite the ending, among other options. Math class features hands-on activities focused specifically on geometry and linear equations. On a recent day, students built water bottle rockets, studied distance, and considered variables that affect the rockets’ performance.

Enrichment blocks allow students to explore the wealth of opportunities offered through DotHouse Health. Students swim, participate in art projects, learn financial literacy, and continue to hone their writing skills through a creative journaling course. This year’s enrichment features a unique partnership with the Boston Police Department, through which officers visit weekly to participate in police-youth dialogues.

Through the various offerings, students are intensively focused on earning badges in communication, critical thinking, perseverance, and teamwork. Charts hang in classrooms defining each skill, and students nominate each other on a weekly basis for incentives for displaying a particular skill during the week. Students who earn a badge over the 5 weeks will receive their pin at the site’s graduation ceremony in early August.

Students will graduate from the program with badges, a creative journal, and a leg up in the next school year. And they’ll have a well-planned exit strategy should they encounter a deserted island! It all adds up to a rich summer learning experience for these 30 BPS students.