Art teacher Aletha Tatge (center) instructs Tylynne Smith and a dozen or more other first- and second-grade children who are attending summer school at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Marysville. Subjects taught include age math, reading, Spanish, music and art. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Art teacher Aletha Tatge (center) instructs Tylynne Smith and a dozen or more other first- and second-grade children who are attending summer school at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Marysville. Subjects taught include age math, reading, Spanish, music and art. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church summer school focuses on basics

MARYSVILLE — At one cluster of tables in the church basement, Mike Wray is guiding a handful of kids through basic addition and subtraction problems.

In another part of the room, Candice Ferguson reads to a small circle of kids from a picture book. More kids work on an art project in another room.

Rev. Terry Kyllo, the pastor at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, oversees the room.

It’s a small gathering of 13 kids and almost as many adult volunteers, but its the root of what Kyllo hopes will catch on elsewhere: summer school.

“This is not vacation Bible school. There’s enough of those going on, and I’m kind of bored with vacation Bible school,” Kyllo said. “But we are committed to our mission of working on poverty.”

The genesis of the program came about three years ago when Kyllo heard the Marysville School District had no money for a summer school program.

He and others in the church talked about it. One member, who is a teacher, cited statistics that poorer children tend to lose a grade level of reading and math over the course of a summer, and that students who don’t read at grade level by the end of the third grade have a greater chance of being incarcerated later in life.

“Everyone sat up straight when they heard this,” Kyllo said.

The church partnered with the school district to set up a curriculum, and by July, 13 kids were in the parish hall reading and working on math.

They kept the program running, and it’s now in its third year.

It’s still small: 14 incoming first- and second-graders. They meet for two weeks, each offering four days of instruction. And the program is designed primarily to maintain the kids’ learning, provide them with meals, and help students build confidence and social skills.

And it’s all free. St. Philip’s funded the program with a $4,000 grant from the Tulalip Tribes. The grant also provides money for the church’s weekend feeding program at Liberty Elementary School and a homework club at Pinewood Elementary School.

The agenda for this summer’s school is math, reading and Spanish. Students also get music and art on alternate days. Breakfast, a snack and lunch are provided, and at the end of the day, the kids can take part in low-key and optional chapel experience, Kyllo said.

In the reading unit, Candice Ferguson, a retired elementary school teacher from Snohomish, leads the kids through several exercises designed to test their vocabulary, read books together and practice visualization exercises that help the kids express themselves.

When it comes time to read a book on fireflies, the kids chime in with learned vocabulary and other cues.

“A firefly is a …,” Ferguson began.

“Beetle!” the kids called out.

“He flies in the night and flashes his light,” Ferguson continued.

“Blink blink!” Atabey Lopez chimed in.

For the last session of the day, Aletha Tatge gathered the kids for an art lesson.

She told the kids that the day’s exercise would be to paint a coconut tree. First she guided the kids in a breathing exercise to help them relax and get into the zone.

“When you take a brush, take a breath and when you apply that brush to canvas, let it go. What does breathing do for you?” Tatge said.

“It makes you calm and feel good about yourself,” Tylynne Smith offered.

Tatge, a former Navy officer, commanded the kids’ attention.

“Paintbrushes down, eyes on me — thank you — and I’ll demonstrate,” Tatge said, and she showed the kids how to wet their brushes, dilute the watercolors, and begin applying the paint to paper.

She worked the room and offered guidance to each of the kids: “Put some more water on yours.” “Breathe in.” “Oh, you’re making waves, good!”

When she noticed Tylynne’s tree wasn’t coming out right, she turned it into a teachable moment.

“Tylynne is going through a phase of art we call ‘frustration.’ You’re not happy with yours, are you?” she said. Tylynne shook her head.

To everyone, she added: “This is called the ugly phase of your picture, because no one knows what’s going to happen.”

During snack and meal breaks, volunteers sit and eat with the kids, and Kyllo does a bit of “stand-up” to keep them engaged: Animal noises first, singing voices later.

Even the stand-up has a goal: the kids’ confidence grows during the school sessions, and many of them showcase their own talents to the other kids, Kyllo said.

He said he would like to expand the length and breadth of the school, and said some churches up in Skagit County now offer a full summer school. He hopes the idea catches on in Snohomish County.

“Our hope is to see some of these other churches do some of the same stuff,” he said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

Talk to us

More in Local News

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Private prisons, police reform and a Black pioneer’s plaque

Here’s what’s happening on Day 45 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

Joe Hempel swims off of the shore of Seawall Park on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021 in Langley, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Scantily clad is the dress code for these cold rush swimmers

Immersed for 30 minutes in frigid water would kill most of us. It energizes these swimmers.

Everett man found dead in creek near Lake Stevens

The man, 28, was reported missing Thursday. A neighbor found his body in Little Pilchuck Creek.

When not at home, Brett Bass keeps his rifle locked in a 600-lb. safe at his home on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018 in Edmonds, Wa. Bass, an NRA certified firearms instructor and safety officer, is one of three Edmonds residents who sued to block the city's safe storage gun law from being enforced. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Appeals court says Edmonds can’t enforce safe storage gun law

State law “unambiguously” pre-empts the city from enacting its own firearm rules, the panel concludes.

A Washington State Patrol detective photographs the vehicle involved in hit and run double fatality in Bothell Friday on February 19, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Fatal hit-and-run victims identified after Friday crash

They were Carson M. Cox, 32, and Sarah L. Foxheath, 39, according to the state patrol.

Autopsy shows Lake Stevens woman, 20, drowned Saturday

Anna M. Lopez was swimming when witnesses noticed she was not responsive, according to officials.

Rain drops gather on a ball cap with the name of the crab fishing boat Scandies Rose, a 130-foot crab fishing boat from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, that sank on New Year's Eve, as the hat rests near some flowers and a fishing float at the Seattle Fishermen's Memorial, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
‘We are rolling over’: Edmonds survivor recounts boat tragedy

The inquiry into the Bering Sea sinking of the Scandies Rose crab boat openened with a mayday call.

Firearms teacher sentenced for Oak Harbor restaurant shooting

The 82-year-old victim had part of her legs amputated because of blood clots related to the injury.

Most Read