By Ann McBride
Arizona Summer Wildcat
Between requests for potty breaks and drinks of water, seven 5 and 6-year-olds huddled around the slide projector as their instructor quizzed them about whales and the differences between vertebrae and invertebrae.
As one boy blurted out "I hate whales," the rest of the kids enrolled in the "Under the Sea" class waved their hands excitedly as they discussed plankton, Orca and Free Willy Ä the sequel.
Meanwhile, just down the sidewalk at Duffy Elementary's Room 115, 11 fourth and fifth-graders debated who the better captain was Ä Kirk or Picard Ä during their class "Star Trek." They were all ears as their instructor explained that the problem with Star Trek was that it humanized the bad guys until there weren't any bad guys left.
Star Trek and Under the Sea are just two of the 40 different classes offered at Duffy as part of Extended University's SEEK summer program.
SEEK, which stands for Summer Education and Enrichment for Kids, was started in 1990 by Mary Lindley, a program development specialist at Extended University. She said she felt that the University of Arizona had a lot to offer children in the community and, at the time, "There wasn't very much going on for younger kids," she said.
Lindley noted that when SEEK started Tucson Unified School District did not offer an enrichment program for kids and she says that the success of SEEK testifies to its need as it has grown from serving 165 kids in 1990 to 700 in 1991.
SEEK is comprised of two two-week and four two-week sessions held in four different locations Ä Duffy Elementary at 5145 E. Fifth St.; Magee Elementary at 8300 E. Speedway Blvd.; Butterfield Elementary at 3400 W. Massingale Road; and the UA campus.
Session three started June 26 and will conclude July 7. The final session of the summer runs July 10 through July 21. The elementary schools offer a variety of classes for children grades kindergarten through fifth. Classes held at the UA are for children grades six through eight.
The Magee and Butterfield locations, which are referred to as "satellite" programs, offer two two-week sessions during session two and three. They will both conclude July 6. The one-hour classes run from 8 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Classes held at Duffy and the UA run all four sessions Ä May 30 through July 21 Ä and operate 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Although enrollment is down from last year, SEEK will be able to cover its 1995 costs which is imperative for the self-supported program.
In 1994, SEEK had about 1,100 children participate in the four sessions. Lindley estimates about 850 children will
participate in this summer's four sessions.
Even the middle-school program, which Lindley says has always been strong because of a lack of summer programs for older children, is running at about two-thirds capacity compared to 1994.
"What that says to me is that it's the economy," Lindley said noting that the Pima County Parks and Recreation offers programs for free and middle-school-aged children can stay home by themselves if necessary.
SEEK covers its cost through enrollment fees which range from $40 for one two-week class to $250 for eight two-week classes. SEEK pays rent to the Tucson and Marana school districts for use of their facilities and SEEK also funds a full-time on-site school administrator at the three elementary schools in addition to paying the instructors' salaries. Instructors are paid of minimum of $10 an hour up to a maximum of $17 an hour depending on tenure with SEEK and class enrollment.
Many of SEEK's instructors are elementary and secondary teachers, members of the UA faculty or upper-division students. Instructors are encouraged to develop their own topics because as Lindley says, "We want teachers to teach what they want to teach." Approximately 50 percent of the classes offered each summer are new which helps keep the program fresh, Lindley said.
While the Star Trek class has been around since 1992, it consistently runs at capacity.
Lindley approached Peggy Swan, a Marana teacher and Trekkie since 1966, to teach the course after her son expressed an interest in the topic. Swan wasn't quite sure how the program would fare, but to her surprise it took off.
Ten-year-old David Sussman finds Star Trek "very interesting" saying that his favorite part is watching video tapes of the show and discussing them afterward.
Swan, who has taught for SEEK since 1990, said the program's greatest strength is the wide range of "unusual" class topics.
Classes range from "Build Bugs and Insects Galore" to "Water and Bubble Play" both designed for 5 and 6-year-olds to "Make Big Bucks ... Now" and "Amateur Anthropologists" designed for sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
Parent Margaret Morrison has two children attending the current session at Duffy and she said her kids "love it" and they especially enjoy picking their classes from the large schedule.
Six-year-old Joanna Keyl said she liked "everything" about her "Photography without a Camera" class but she's especially fond of the toys used to make sun prints.
For information about SEEK's final summer session contact Extended University at 621-8632 or pick up a brochure at their office at 1955 E. Sixth St.
Read Next Article