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JUL
12
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Stop cuts to summer learning

By Guest Blogger

By Rachel Gwaltney, Director of Policy and Partnerships at the National Summer Learning Association. Rachel leads development and implementation of services, projects and partnerships that strengthen summer learning policy and build capacity of state and national leaders and organizations.

Ann Arbor Rec & Ed celebrating National Summer Learning Day 2016

"Summer learning is a well-documented solution to supporting the academic and social growth of all students, yet, it remains an under-resourced strategy for closing the achievement gap in our country."

-NSLA's Founder and CEO, Matthew Boulay, Ph.D.

The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) and a network of youth advocates recently came together to raise awareness about the importance of summer learning experiences, advocating for greater resources for local summer programming on Capitol Hill.

26 meetings with staff from offices representing ten states marked a productive Hill Day. Congressional staff from offices on both sides of the aisle reaffirmed the value of summer and afterschool programs and said they would work to maintain funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21CCLC) program.

Tomorrow is National Summer Learning Day and we’re counting on you to lift your voices to keep kids learning, safe and healthy! Here are three ways you can help:

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learn more about: Guest Blog Summer Learning Take Action
JUL
12
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: July 12, 2017

By Luci Manning

A Life-Changing Summer for Every Boston Kid (Boston Globe, Massachusetts)

The Boston Globe editorial board praised Boston’s investments in citywide summer learning programs last week: “The program is a valuable investment in Boston kids that deserves a broader base of support so that more students can participate…. The success has been remarkable: In 2015, the city had capacity for only 6,500 students; this summer, the city has a total of over 12,000 kids enrolled in more than 100 fully or partially subsidized summer programs…. The Boston summer learning model, which is paid for with a combination of public and private funds, is worthy of replication…. Rewarding summer experiences shouldn’t be reserved for wealthy families alone.”

Girls of Summer Kicks Off at CCGA (Brunswick News, Georgia)

A four-week summer enrichment program for rising middle school girls kicked off earlier this month at the College of Coastal Georgia. The Girls of Summer camp aims to help young women build their confidence, have good manners and maintain positive self-esteem, assistant director Marcyline Bailey told the Brunswick News. The program will also give students a head start on what they’ll be learning during the school year, offering supplemental instruction in math, language arts and reading.

A Summer Camp for Refugee Children Sprouts in St. Louis, Freeing Parents to Take English Classes (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri)

When the International Institute of St. Louis, a refugee resettlement and assistance agency, noticed a consistent drop-off in summer enrollments for adult English classes, the agency found a creative solution: It organized a summer camp for children so that parents could be free to attend their English lessons. The free camp’s curriculum mirrors what parents are learning in their English classes so that families can review the material together at home. “This is a chance for family to be in a safe learning environment together where the parents don’t have to worry about their children and can focus on their English,” director of education Anita Barker told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

16 Schools Reopen for Summer as Recreation Centers (Detroit News, Michigan)

This week, 16 Detroit public schools opened as “Summer Fun Centers,” giving students free access to places where they can swim, play basketball, work on arts and crafts projects and more under adult supervision throughout the summer. The addition of the Summer Fun Centers supplements the 11 full-time recreation centers already in place throughout the city. “Too many times, kids, if you don’t give them something positive to do, they’ll find something negative to do,” Detroit Parks and Recreation Department interim director Keith Flournoy told the Detroit News. “This is an opportunity to provide kids with something positive.” 

JUL
6
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: July 6, 2017

By Luci Manning

Young Inventors: Students Learn STEM Skills in Summer School Class (Logansport Pharos-Tribune, Indiana)

Sixty-five students from Lewis Cass and other area high schools are dismantling VCRs, building catapults and learning about how to grow vegetation on other planets as part of a STEM-focused summer program. The classes give kids a chance to create inventions using household items and increase their independence and creativity. “STEM is good for every kid,” program organizer Cindy LeDuc told the Pharos-Tribune.

Annual Summer Meals Program Kicks off in Philly (CBS Philly, Pennsylvania)

South Philadelphia’s Aquinas Center kicked off its annual Summer Meals program last week. “The city of Philadelphia is looking to provide activities and encourage active healthy lifestyles and educational opportunities as part of the fun, safe, Philly summer and out of school time initiatives,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. More than 1,000 free food centers throughout the city will offer summer meals to all kids under the age of 18, regardless of household income or other factors, according to CBS Philly.

Circuit Boards, Web Development and Summer Fun (Castle Rock News-Press, Colorado)

The University of Colorado South Denver has partnered with Coding with Kids to bring coding and STEM instruction to Denver students between the ages of 5 and 16 this summer. Kids learn everything from the basic concepts of coding to game development, robotics and web development. “Not only are these skills transferable in other aspects of their lives, but they also give these kids something to be passionate about,” Coding with Kids regional director Hardy Bora told the Castle Rock News-Press. “We want to share our passion for coding and lifelong learning with these kids. We want to teach them how to learn, not what to learn.”

New Albany Students Blend Classroom and Kitchen (Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Mississippi)

A unique program at New Albany Middle School is blending math and cooking for about 30 students this summer. Kids in Integrating Math Through Cooking, part of the 21st Century Community Learning Center program, learned how fractions and proportions can be applied outside the classroom by analyzing recipes and multiplying portions four mornings a week this June. They also learned basic kitchen skills. “It’s amazing to see how much the children learned that they’ll use for the rest of their lives,” program director Maia Miller told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. “I can see we have some budding chefs in the making.”
 

JUN
28
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: June 28, 2017

By Luci Manning

Schools Let Students Take Laptops Home to Stop the 'Summer Slide' (NPR)

Topeka Public Schools has joined many other school districts in the country by allowing children to take home school-issued computers over summer break, with the hope that access to the devices will reduce disparities between higher- and lower-income students. Some see the laptops as a way to offer learning opportunities to students who may not have the resources to go to summer camps or family vacations like some of their peers. “It has opened up a huge educational resource to our kids who may not have access otherwise,” principal Kelli Hoffman told NPR.

Peacebuilders Camp Focuses on Human Rights, Relationships (Youth Today)

Each summer, kids ages 11 to 14 spend a week on a farm in Georgia learning about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, participating in lively discussions about the morality of hunting, serving in the military and more. Peacebuilders camp will host three week-long sessions this summer, with each day of the session focused on a different article from the Universal Declaration. “What we go for is openness and discussion and finding how to be in a relationship even when we disagree,” co-founder and curriculum director Marilyn McGinnis told Youth Today.

Local Girl Scout Shares Her Love of Math via Summer Learning Program (Newark Advocate, Ohio)

Girl Scout and math aficionado Ava Wandersleben decided to earn her Girl Scouts’ Silver Award – an honor that requires 50 hours of community service work – by creating a summer math program for elementary schoolers. Each Wednesday, she leads youths in kindergarten through fifth grade in math-themed games meant to improve their math skills and learn to enjoy a subject many of them find uninteresting. “Her idea for giving back was getting kids to like math,” Ava’s mother, Christina, told the Newark Advocate. “That way they could do well on their math tests in the fall.”

A Week of Touring for Local Students to Help Their Careers (Daily Nonpareil, Iowa)

A group of 22 high school students got a firsthand look at potential future careers as part of a summer program sponsored by a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant. Students attended different career seminars at the University of Nebraska at Omaha each day of the program, then toured a representative workplace in the afternoon, according to the Daily Nonpareil. “The purpose is to showcase different opportunities students can have,” 21st Century Community Learning Center site facilitator Julia Hartnett said. “It’s to [pique] interest in a field that maybe they never considered.” 

JUN
27
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Join us for a Day of Action to support summer learning

By Charlotte Steinecke

Summer isn’t a vacation for everyone. When schools close during the summer months, more than 25 million low-income students in America lose access to affordable food, safe places to spend the day, and opportunities to engage in learning and maintain the skills they’ve developed during the school year. And the effects don’t end when school is back in session: the culumative impact of academic skills lost each summer can leave low-income fifth graders up to three years behind their peers.

Summer should be for water slides, not achievement slides.

On June 28, the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) is bringing support for summer learning opportunities straight to Capitol Hill—and your help will be key! NSLA has set a few goals that supporters at home can help them meet:

  • Raise awareness among Congressional Members and staff of summer learning loss as well as the risks for young people related to health and safety during the summer
  • Share the impact of effective programs in their state or district, using both data and stories
  • Ask for support of key federal programs that support summer activities at the local level
  • Build a relationship with your elected officials and their staff

Mark your calendar for June 28 and be ready to send an email urging Congress to support funding for the programs that help students thrive year-round.

After the email, head over to NSLA’s website to learn more about Summer Learning Day (July 13). You can register your event and find resources for families and students, communities, and elected officials, along with factsheets and a calendar of events near you.

OCT
6
2016

IN THE FIELD
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How a summer learning program helped one community's literacy problem

By Jodi Grant

For the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD), English language literacy is both an essential and a challenging aspect of students’ learning. More than 91 percent of SAUSD’s 53,000 students are Hispanic and 60 percent are learning English as a second language. More than 90 percent are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch.  It’s clear that developing literacy skills is crucial for these students to succeed in school, career and life.

Many students fall behind over the summer, especially in reading. The National Summer Learning Association reports that every summer, low-income youth lose two to three months in reading while their higher-income peers make slight gains… By fifth grade, summer learning loss can leave low-income students 2 1/2 to 3 years behind their peers.

Parents seek to overcome the “summer slide” through summer learning programs. According to our America After 3PM household survey, 62 percent of California parents say they want to enroll their children in a summer learning program, 77 percent agree that summer learning activities help kids maintain academic skills and 90 percent support public funding for these programs.

Teaching literacy through the power of publishing

Leaders at the SAUSD summer learning program, Engage 360°, were looking for a creative way to help students make gains in writing and literacy, so they turned to the WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS program. It helps young people in grades K-12 to become writers, and therefore more comprehensive readers, by allowing them to author and publish original stories inspired by artwork on pre-illustrated (yet wordless) children’s books. Engage 360° operates at SAUSD’s elementary school locations, serving approximately 4,000 students over the summer.

“We wanted to counteract learning loss over the summer and make it fun for kids to work on their literacy skills and English language proficiency,” said Michael Baker, SAUSD’s District Coordinator of Extended Learning Programs.

Through collaborative and independent processes, kids in the WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS craft original stories—including characters, plotlines and setting descriptions. Their stories are saved online for students and educators to access and then printed professionally.

“WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS disguises literacy education as fun,” said Meredith Scott Lynn, WRiTE BRAiN’s Founder & CEO. “It’s a project-based approach to literacy. Kids in the program have to invent real worlds for the imaginary characters in the books. They have to solve the real world problems posed by working in a group comprised of individuals with differing opinions and perspectives, and then create the processes by which the imaginary characters in their books solve their own problems.”

Baker praised the program’s structured approach to promoting creativity. “One of the major hurdles kids face when writing is the question of ‘what do I write about?’ WRiTE BRAiN addresses this question in a systematic way, guiding students step-by-step as they work together and independently to build valuable 21st century skills.”

“When kids go home, they all want to talk about their books with their parents,” Baker added. "They take ownership of their work and are proud of it.”

SEP
21
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Gwinnett County's summer camp for kids gets boost from HEPA standards

By Robert Abare

Written by Matt Freeman

This past summer, more than 3,700 elementary and middle school children in the Atlanta, Georgia area took part in the Summer Camp Healthy Habits Program, a program run by Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation (GCPR). Over the course of seven weeks, children’s weekly lessons included such topics as healthy habits for the entire family, how to eat healthfully while dining out, the USDA’s MyPlate coloring tools, oral hygiene, germs, dehydration and food allergies. There were healthy doses of hands-on activities, sugar demonstrations revealing the amount of sugar in common drinks and snacks, and physical fitness challenges.

That rich menu of program offerings owes much to GCPR’s 2014 implementation of Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards in its summer program. The standards transformed a program built around standard summer camp activities into a focused program designed to educate campers and families on how to make low-fat food choices, eat high-fiber diets, drink more water and exercise regularly. “We’ve got two main goals with the program,” said Lindsey Jorstad, GCPR Community Services Outreach Manager. “First, we want to help kids and their families get and stay healthy by reducing obesity rates, improving cardiovascular fitness, and boosting campers’ confidence and self-esteem. Second, we want to teach them how to be healthy for the rest of their lives.”

The program aims to reach beyond the campers as well. Parents receive weekly “Strong4Life” tips by way of a take-home newsletter and they’re encouraged to pack at least one healthy lunch or snack item each day. Campers were also encouraged to bring a reusable water bottle every day, and GCPR made sure they had constant access to drinking water. This summer, GCPR expanded the program to include community partners, who came to camp to conduct a variety of wellness activities. The University of Georgia Extension program led hands-on recipe lessons; the Gwinnett County Public Library visited to get campers excited about summer reading; the Kaiser Educational Theatre of Georgia brought its puppet, Mumford the Dog, to talk about water safety; the American Red Cross educated campers on how to be prepared for emergencies; and the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta ran summer long science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities that included Shaving Cream Rain Clouds, Crystal Stars, Magic Milk and Oobleck!

One of the most popular forms of exercise at GCPR’s camp is swimming, so with the goal of decreasing the number of aquatic-related emergencies, the camp offered swimming lessons. Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that the rate of drowning among African American children is nearly three times the rate for their white peers, and other research points to disparities in swimming ability among African American and Latino children. GCPR gave free swimming lessons to more than 400 children this summer, most of them children of color.

“Our commitment to HEPA is threaded throughout the entire program,” said Tina Fleming, GCPR Director of Community Services, “and it’s made a huge difference in the work we do. We’d always been focused on physical activity, but HEPA added a layer of evidence-based intentionality to what we’re doing that helps guide us. And it also persuaded us to reach out more to parents, hoping to encourage year-round, healthy lifestyles at home—not just during the day at summer camp. It’s been a huge boost to our work.”

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learn more about: Health and Wellness Summer Learning
SEP
15
2016

RESEARCH
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New report: Participation in summer learning programs yields positive outcomes

By Erin Murphy

A new report shows that high levels of participation in summer learning programs can provide positive benefits for low-income students’ math and language arts performance and social-emotional skills. Last week, The Wallace Foundation released Learning from Summer: Effects of Voluntary Summer Learning Programs on Low-Income Urban Youththe third and final report analyzing the outcomes of their National Summer Learning Project.

This report, conducted by the RAND Corporation, is part of a six-year study offering the first-ever assessment of the effectiveness of voluntary, no-cost summer learning programs on the academic achievement, social-emotional competencies, and behavior of low-income, urban, elementary students. In fall 2013, third grade students enrolled in one of five urban school districts—Boston, Dallas, Jacksonville (FL), Pittsburgh, or Rochester (NY)—were selected to participate in the study. Half of the students were invited to participate in summer programming while half were not, and data on academic performance, social emotional skills, behavior and attendance was collected on both groups through the end of seventh grade.

Key findings on summer learning programs:

  • Students who were “high-attenders”—those attending a summer program at least 20 days—saw near and long-term positive effects in math assessments throughout the study.
  • High-attenders saw near and long-term positive effects in language arts assessments after the second summer of programming.
  • High-attenders saw positive benefits for their social and emotional skills after the second summer of programming.
  • When programs focused on math or language arts, students saw lasting positive gains in these subjects. Students who received a minimum of 25 hours of math instruction or 34 hours in language arts instruction during the summer outperformed students who did not receive the same level of instruction in the relevant subject in fall assessments. The report also found that the positive effects lasted into the spring after the second summer.
  • Providing students an invitation to attend did not lead to substantial long-term benefits, because of high rates of non-participation and low-attendance rates.
Infographic courtesy of the Wallace Foundation.