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Summer Academic Skills Workshop


We all know great students. They develop mastery of the material and are on top of classwork. They get excellent grades and move on effectively to more advanced studies and academic recognition. But how do they do this? Are these guys just smarter?
There is no question that intelligence is a part of academic performance–but it is only a part. There are other critical academic skills which enable the great students to do so well. There are ways to look at the environment and techniques for assessing academic challenges and modifying learning approaches that the top students identify and practice. Some kids are smart enough (or lucky enough) to just tumble on to these techniques.
The objective of the Summer Academic Skills Workshop is to begin to take the smarts and the luck out of the picture, by actually teaching students how to learn more effectively.

Subject matter

Skills that affect educational achievement but which are not measured by standardized tests have been characterized as “non-cognitive academic skills.” Researcher Melissa Roderick summarizes them as
study skills,
work habits,
time management,
help-seeking behavior, and
social/academic problem-solving skills.
Dr. Roderick notes that,
As they do in the transition to high school, when students move to college they face increased developmental demands and academic expectations. It is assumed they can study and prepare for class without test deadlines, handle multiple assignments, work on projects of longer duration, and balance academic, employment, and other responsibilities. To excel in college, as in high school, students must have strong norms for their work effort and achievement in class and effective coping and help-seeking techniques that allow them to persevere when facing difficulty. Students need to become ‘learners’ rather than ‘attendees,’ who can manage their own learning, assess their progress and status, and rely on a set of core strategies for success.
Developing these skills is an important part of a student’s middle school and high school career, and we can only make a start in a three week summer program. Nevertheless, we hope to introduce students to some important techniques that will help them to do better in their studies and to think critically about what they are learning and how they are learning it.
Academic skills cannot be taught well in isolation, so these skills will be learned in the context of actual study of demanding subject matter, selected to be appropriate to the child’s level of development. For middle school students this will involve the natural sciences, and for high school students it will history.


Class size will be about 15 students, offered in at least two levels:
6-7 Grammar stage
8-9 Logic stage
If enrollment warrants, three levels will be offered:
6 Grammar stage
7-8 Grammar-logic stage
9 Logic stage


The workshop will be offered in the mornings Mondays through Thursdays, from July 28 to August 14, 2014. Field trips will be conducted on Friday, August 1, and Friday, August 8, and may last into the later afternoon.

Class schedule and location

Except for field trips on Fridays, the workshop will be offered in the church and religious education wing of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, 602 Everglade Dr., Madison, WI. Students should arrive in the education wing by 8:15 a.m., and no earlier than 7:45 a.m. The workshop will end at 12:15 p.m. Students need to be picked up no later than 12:30 p.m. Students will assist at Mass on Mondays and Wednesdays.


Grammar Stage

Logic Stage



Homeroom—Team Building, Confidence Exercises



Mass (M, W) Study Hall (T, TR)



Life Science







Spiritual Exercises

Spiritual Exercises


Science Practicum

History Practicum






Variations on the Theme of Character:  Guest Speakers






Mental Prayer and Chaplet



Tuition is $200 for each child, due with application. Full or partial scholarships for families in financial need are available. Contact the principal to request a scholarship.

Who may enroll

The workshop is offered for students who will be entering sixth through ninth grade in fall, 2014. It is especially recommended for students beginning at St. Ambrose Academy in 2014, and for continuing students who have been referred by St. Ambrose faculty. Enrollment is also recommended for students who are continuing their primary education at their current school, but intend to enter St. Ambrose Academy after sixth grade, even if they will not be enrolling in the fall. Depending on space available, students will be accepted whose educational plans do not include enrollment at St. Ambrose Academy as full-time students.


Michael Kwas, M.A., Academic Skills Workshop Coordinator. Mr. Kwas received a Masters of Arts in History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2007.  He is currently writing a dissertation on corruption and conspiracy in Wisconsin during the decade of the 1850s.  He has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has taught upper level courses including the Civil War era and the history of American Indians.  He has also taught three semesters of Speech Communication and has a keen interest in debate and forensics.  He has taught science and history at St. Ambrose Academy since 2013.


Dates for applying

Mar. 28 Enrollment opens to new and current St. Ambrose students

Apr. 4 Enrollment opens to St. Ambrose waiting list students

Apr. 11 Enrollment opens to general public

May. 15 Enrollment deadline


How to apply

Please request an application form from the school secretary and return with your payment (or request for need-based assistance) to the school office.


St. Ambrose Academy

Academic Skills Workshop

602 Everglade Dr.

Madison, WI 53717


Please contact the school secretary, Mrs. Liz Frias, at (608) 827-5863, with any questions.

St. Ambrose Academy
In the St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Education Wing
602 Everglade Drive, Madison, WI 53717
(608) 827-5863