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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Attend a Summer Camp for Continuing to Develop Literacy Skills

Silicon Valley is an international community with broad cultural diversity. The team at First Focus provides a series of unique reading weekly camps during the Summer, June 26-August 12. The purpose of these camps is to provide a fun and social educational experience designed specifically to begin or advance a child’s English literacy skills.

The First Focus JumpStart Reading Camps provide students with a visual literacy experience which empowers them to become independent learners.

We use the visual literacy strategy to develop a foundation in reading, writing, and comprehension using the following approach: 
  • decoding words with appropriate reading strategies 
  • reading words correctly aloud 
  • creating a visual image of words by looking at pictures to further develop understanding 
  • using words in spoken and written sentences 
  • read passages and stories to enhance comprehension 

One of the very popular camps is the Advanced Reading Camp, designed to provide students entering 2nd and 3rd grade with reading skill development during the summer and also provide a strong start for the new school year.  Many students attend the Advanced Reading Camp for 2 weeks to cover the full range of material in the Advanced Reading Camp course book.

Why First Focus?

The Full Day camps are an accelerated learning experience over one week where students will have a visual literacy experience, which is embedded in all camps. This visual literacy experience provides a framework for critical thinking and comprehension skills that contribute to academic success.

The camps feature three-hour classes in the morning that introduce new academic skills to students, and project-based activities in the afternoon which provide an opportunity to interact with native speakers and use those skills in context.

 Detailed information and a video outlining each camp is available at:

Students who receive a learning experience during the summer show a significantly higher level of skill retention, leading to a higher level of early engagement with the curriculum for the upcoming school year.

First Focus Learning Systems
1059 El Monte Avenue, Ste A
Mountain View, CA 94040

Tel 650-938-3100


Friday, April 1, 2016

7 Key Components in STEM/STEAM Project Based Learning

STEM has been a popular acronym conveying an emphasis on the key components for successful 21st-century careers featuring project based learning that integrates Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

A movement in educational curriculum development has resulted in a modified approach to project based learning. This approach is referred to as STEAM which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Engineering, and Math. You might ask how does adding Art to the formula transform education?

The “A” for the arts is a recognition that success in technical careers involves much more that the pure technical skills, it also involves the ability to find a creative solution, to “think outside the box”, to consider design, layout, presentation.  

STEAM advocates believe that the best way to encourage “outside the box” creative thinking and problem solving is to look at the problem from different perspectives, from different angles,  – recognizing that many projects warrant an effort in design, aesthetics, presentation and communications.  These additional skills are best developed by including and educational exposure to the arts.   

STEAM advocates place an emphasis on team collaboration including the development of social skills among all team members.  Social skills in a team are essential in the real world and have been undervalued in many traditional scientific curriculums.  

This definition has separated proponents of the two approaches, something along the lines of a respective discussion to a heated debate.

The core issue comes down to how you define Art and its role in the learning process.  STEM advocates believe team collaboration, communications and respect for different approaches are already included  STEM programs.  STEAM advocates believe there is room to include the Arts in a broader educational context, including a focus on the user experience, considering the aesthetics of the design verses pure functionality and the verbal and written presentation both written and verbal, about the benefits of the project. 

Both approaches include what we believe is important, that project based leaning provide an inquiry-based approach which encourages and rewards children and youth through hands-on exploration, originality of the approach, the use of innovation in the project, team work, evaluation and reflection. 

The afternoon sessions of our First Focus camps are a project based STEM / STEAM experience, where students work in small teams on specific projects, collaborate with their team members in a project based learning experience and present the results to the group.  

Our experience in conducting project based summer camps has allowed us to define the following seven key elements in a STEM/STEAM learning experience:

  • The project complexity is appropriate to the age and attention level of the students and it can be completed within the defined time limits.
  • The project has several acceptable approaches and a range of different outcomes. 
  • Students are provided with background material on the project, why it matters, who will benefit, how those benefits can be observed or measured.
  • Students can work in teams to share knowledge, solve problems they encounter individually or they can work independently.
  • Students write a short description of the project, track their progress, outline what worked, what did not work and any insights they gained in the project.
  • Students use the written description to make a presentation to the class.
  • Students take home their project, explain it to their family and friends
For more information on the summer camp series conduction as one week camps over 7 weeks with STEM/STEAM programs in the afternoon, please visit