Oak Knoll Summer Programs

Teresa Pollard ’21

With the end of the academic year finally in sight, many students are likely looking for ways to do more with their three months of relative freedom this summer. If you are one of these students, read on to learn about the many summer opportunities offered right here at Oak Knoll!

Oak Knoll offers a variety of engaging programs for Upper and Lower Schoolers alike. With some programs dating back over 40 years, and others beginning just this year, Oak Knoll’s summer programs are both well-established and growing. They offer students from Oak Knoll and elsewhere opportunities to strengthen their intellectual and physical skills in the encouraging environment fostered by Oak Knoll administration. Ms.Tarowsky, the Director of Auxiliary Operations and contact for Oak Knoll’s many summer programs, says, “As our summer classes are taught mostly by OKS faculty, the Summer Programs offered at Oak Knoll are an extension of the spirit and values that our students experience during the school the year…we hope to share the OKS spirit and experience with others and have them become future applicants and possibly students!” This upcoming summer, younger students can attend Summer Adventures, Kindergarten Ready, and the Sports Camps. Older students can serve as Counselors-in-Training at Summer Adventures, and can attend the Sports Camps. Another especially exciting program offered to Upper School students comes in the form of Summer Scholars

Nicole Johnston, the Upper School History Chair, became the Dean of Summer Scholars programs for the Upper School during the summer of 2020; in these two years, Ms. Johnston has added many dynamic classes and programs to the Summer Scholars’ offerings, and is currently looking to continue expanding the program, creating classes that pique students’ interest and draw out their love of learning for learning’s sake. 

Ms. Johnston made time to speak more specifically to the Summer Scholars program for this article. When asked what makes the program distinctive, she said that Summer Scholars allows students to explore “their interests or passions that they [students] may not get to in a normal school year.” She also noted that the program “provides opportunities for our students to learn from other teachers”; while many classes are run by teachers from Oak Knoll, the inclusion of outside teachers and professionals allows students to make important connections, and can be very helpful as students navigate more advanced academic endeavors, such as their Senior Capstone projects. 

As mentioned earlier, Ms. Johnston has already implemented several new programs within Summer Scholars; included among these programs is the Career Series, in which students spend an hour a week with professionals in a specific field. Somewhat serendipitously, Ms. Johnston had already been planning to hold the Career Series virtually, to make it easier for the various speakers to participate. Overall, she thinks that virtual programming could add a new dimension to the program in upcoming years, even when it is no longer required. She says that, prior to the pandemic, she “had already wanted to try something new and get students used to online classes,” and pointed out that some colleges currently require participation in online courses as a graduation requirement. Additionally, virtual programming opens up classes to students with vacation plans or other obligations which would prevent them from physically getting to campus. As she said, “one of the good things that came out of this year..is that we might be able to have a hybrid type program where students can be online or in the classroom at the same time.”

Ms. Johnston is making an effort to create new courses which allow students to engage their intellectual curiosity. As many students know all too well, Ms. Johnston notes that there can be an excessive focus on grades during the school year; without this unnecessary stress in the summer programs, she hopes to help students realize, “how freeing it can be to learn for the sake of learning.” She has implemented several discussion based courses, and is currently working to create more programs for middle school students, including a public speaking course. On this note, Ms. Johnston emphasized that she wants to include “areas where students are interested” among the Summer Scholars course offerings. She encourages students to reach out to her with any areas they’d like to learn about, “even if they seem silly.”

In addition to student-inspired courses, once virtual courses are no longer required, Ms. Johnston said that she has plans for some more hands-on courses “that have to take place in person [in fields such as CSI]…I’m looking forward to expanding those types of opportunities.” She hopes that, through everything the program has to offer, students are able “to feel the spirit of Oak Knoll…and see some of the courses we offer.” She has already done so much for the program, and is excited to continue increasing its scope and depth in the upcoming years.