Boost-Up Plus is a 3-week multisensory summer camp for children ages 5-11 that focuses on stimulating physical and cognitive development through fun and challenging gross motor, fine motor, vision and auditory activities. Incorporating elements of A Chance To Grow’s S.M.A.R.T. approach, the program is able to influence a child’s ability to learn, think and remember, ultimately giving them the confidence they need to achieve success in and out of the classroom.
“It’s a holistic approach to help children reach their full potential,” says Patrick Dreher, a Developmental Adaptive Physical Education Teacher in the Robbinsdale district and instructor of the Boost-Up Plus program. “We work on building automatic responses in the brain, like balance, hand-eye coordination and cross-lateral skills through our ever-changing course of activities. As these abilities become more automatic, students are more likely to absorb and retain the information being taught in the classroom, because they are more prepared to learn.”
Patrick returned to school and earned several degrees, including a Master of Science in Special Education. He would later attend a conference for physical educators where he was first introduced to A Chance To Grow’s S.M.A.R.T. approach. This experience reinforced his belief that a moving child is a learning child. As fate would have it, he was hired shortly after as a physical education teacher at the Minnesota Transitions School, which happens to be in the same building as A Chance To Grow.
Patrick attended a 3-day S.M.A.R.T. workshop at ACTG and began introducing elements he learned into his own curriculum. The administration supported his efforts, and soon he was helping his students get the recommended 30 minutes of S.M.A.R.T. activities each day. Upon seeing this, the coordinators of Boost-Up Plus invited Patrick to join the team for the upcoming summer program, an invitation he happily accepted.
Since 2015, Patrick has been a Boost-Up Plus instructor and relishes the opportunity to lead the program each summer. “It’s difficult in a school environment because I sometimes only see students twice a week, which isn’t enough time to reach the 80 hours a year we aim for. It can take 2-3 school years to see any improvements at that rate. But in the summer, we have three weeks to work on specific things for each child and you can see progress happen much faster.”
“Every child has their own starting point and progress means different things for different people,” says Patrick. “We begin with an initial assessment to see where the child is and identify what skills we want to work on over the course of the camp. We make individualized adaptations as much as possible, and the obstacle course changes from day to day.”
The course includes activities like belly crawling, balance beams, overhead ladders, fine motor work stations and more. “We meet the students at their level by making the course incrementally harder or easier, depending on their individual needs. They appreciate the changes and that excitement fuels their motivation to reach their potential for that day.”
“There’s lots of different things I’ve seen and done that have worked great for some students, but not for others,” says Patrick. “This program works for everyone.”
Patrick relishes the moments when it “clicks” for the students, when they realize that they have the capacity inside of themselves to overcome obstacles on their own. “Once they know they have that power, they can do anything,” says Patrick. “It’s rewarding when they want to challenge themselves to be better or faster on the course. They begin to see that if they put in the work, they are going to make progress and find success. Confidence breeds success, and success breeds more success.”