Seymour Middle School Principal J.B. Royer is always on the lookout for interesting places for students to learn and grow.

While attending the annual Airport Awareness Day at Freeman Municipal Airport in Seymour last year with his boys, he decided he had found such a place.

“I brought my kids to the airport day, and we went to the Freeman airfield museum and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I found a hidden gem in Seymour,’” he said.

Royer also is the program administrator for Seymour Community Schools Corp.’s Summer Adventure program for middle school-age students.

The 90 students in the program recently got to experience this gem and two others, the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts and the Jackson County Visitor Center.

“We do field trips on Fridays. This year, I’m teaching a class on current events and history in Seymour, and the three locations play right into those,” said Tyler Pray, an enrichment teacher with the summer program.

The students learned about the history of the airfield from Larry Bothe at the museum. They also explored the history of Seymour around the time of World War II when it served as a training field and later an analytical center studying Axis Powers aircraft immediately after the war.

“Seymour is a good community with a lot of good places in it,” Pray said. “A lot of kids grow up here, and some will live here, and we want to give them pride in their community.”

At the Jackson County Visitor Center, the group learned more about the history of the county from John Burkhart, an information specialist with the center. Burkhart, a former mayor, explained portions of history, such as the train system in Seymour’s services as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

The third stop was the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts to learn about printing from Don Hill and the arts center from Darnell Dukes. Kyle McIntosh with Expressive Mind Artistry taught students about the history of street art and graffiti.

The field trips are only a small portion of the four-week Summer Adventure program. The primary focus of the classes is for the students to have fun while improving their math and language arts skills, something Royer says is happening.

“We test kids coming in and leaving the program, and they show pretty consistent growth,” Royer said, citing a 47 percent increase in math grades on the testing and a 40 percent increase in language arts for students who take the program.

Pray believes the smaller class sizes and better interaction with the teachers is a strong reason for the increases.

“It’s a lot of good for both the students and the teachers, and this helps us even in the school year,” Pray said.

Seventh-grader Brayton Neal said he learned new information through the program, while seventh-grader Payton Toepfert said she thought the important thing was brushing up on the information she had learned in school.

“We’re relearning things so we don’t forget them over the summer,” Payton said.

The group also visited the Jackson County History Center in Brownstown and the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis. The final field trip was to Indiana University in Bloomington this past week for a scavenger hunt.

Royer said he hopes to find locations that the students will be interested in but also will help teach them about current events and history as well as math and science.

“My favorite was the Indiana State Museum,” Payton said, looking at a bracelet on her wrist from the museum. “We got to watch the IMAX movie when we went.”

While Payton liked the larger-scale attraction, Brayton said he preferred something closer to home.

“I liked the airfield museum,” he said. “I didn’t know they had all those artifacts from World War II out there.”

Royer said, “The field trips are kind of the carrots we hold up for the students to motivate them.”

In the future, Royer said, he hopes to expand the program to include more than the 100 allotted student slots this year and expand the grades the school covers to include those entering sixth grade and eighth grade.

Parents wishing to enroll students in next year’s Summer Adventure program will have to wait until March to contact the middle school.

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