Yellowstone Academy Summer Program Adds Guest Science Lessons

Summer school may not be appealing to the average student, but it gets cooler with ExxonMobil’s weekly summer science lessons at Yellowstone Academy.

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ExxonMobil Public Affairs Specialist Dan Carter shows a YA student a fossil during a science lesson.

“It’s a great way to help students see how science impacts everything we do each day,” said ExxonMobil’s Dan Carter, who leads interactive lessons about everything from rocks, minerals, and geology to chemistry and engineering.

About 40 students in kindergarten through 12th grades are enrolled in YA’s summer school program, which is part of a trimester school year. In addition to Carter’s lessons, YA offers vocational programming, art and music classes, and a full range of academic services to assist special education students.

“We’re trying to help these kids with mental health so we can send them back to their districts and they can be successful academically,” said YA superintendent Mike Sullivan.

Students’ home school districts place them at YA through an Individual Education Plan process. The home districts, which are located within an hour’s distance from YA, pay for the placement of their students at the Academy.

“These kids can be successful, but they just need the right setting,” Sullivan said. “We’re the right setting for them.”

The YA day treatment educational model involves collaboration among educators, therapists, and behavioral specialists to help kids work on social and emotional deficiencies. Classrooms have four adults and eight to 10 students. Teachers fill students’ days with group projects and interactive activities, like Carter’s science lessons.

“Every kid I’ve ever met is curious about the world around them,” Carter said. “I just try to show them a new way of looking at it.”

YA is a fully accredited K-12 program through AdvancED Accreditation and an accredited K-8 elementary district through Montana’s Office of Public Instruction. It is located at the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch, a nonprofit organization that is trusted locally and nationally as a leader in the field of mental health care for children and their families. YBGR has impacted more than 10,000 youth and their families since 1957 through Residential Services in Billings, Community Based Services throughout Montana, and the Yellowstone Academy in Billings.

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