By Jen Rinehart
New research from the 2014 edition of America After 3PM, the most comprehensive household survey of how students in America spend their after school hours, shows that summer learning programs are strongly supported by parents and that participation in summer learning programs is on the rise.
According to the survey of nearly 14,000 families:
- Eighty-six percent of parents indicate support for public funding for summer learning programs, a statistically significant increase of 3 percentage points over the already very strong support registered in 2009.
- One-third of families report at least one child participated in a summer learning program last summer, up from the 25 percent of families reporting at least one child participated when the survey was last conducted in 2009.
- Demand for summer learning programs for 2014 is high. More than half of families reported a desire to participate in a summer learning program this summer.
- Thirteen percent of families reported that summer programs were available to them at no cost in 2013. However, the vast majority of parents paid for programs and the average weekly per-child cost for a summer learning program was $250—high enough to put the programs out of the reach of many children and families.
By Luci Manning
Young Man Floundered Until a Cape Family Took a Chance (Cape Cod Times, Massachusetts)
Billy Cook-Warren, a 19 year old who recently graduated from Bourne High School and overcame many obstacles on his path to higher education, is excited to begin college this fall at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. After staying with various foster families, he finally found himself in the care of Trish and Rob Lubold, foster parents who believed and supported him. In addition to the support of his foster family, Billy credits his participation in the Boys & Girls Club of Cape Cod with keeping him engaged in learning. Billy told the Cape Cod Times, “I had a tough upbringing, and no kid should have to grow up like that. They need to pour a little more money into foster care and after-school programs. It’s not a hand out; it’s a hand up.”
Last weekend, the Loveland Stage Company Children’s Summer Theater brought a classic Dickens tale to the stage. Seventy students participated in the production of “Oliver,” taking on important roles both on and off the stage. Tammi Sanders, a mother whose two children performed, spoke highly of their involvement to the Cincinnati Enquirer, saying that “they learn to work with the other children, take direction, memorize lines, as well as choreography; just the whole processes is a learning experience.”
“This is awesome! I learned how to ride without training wheels, and now I have a brand-new bike!” exclaimed 7 year-old Key’Shon Holmes. Key’Shon is one of 160 students who received a bike after taking part in the YMCA’s afterschool program at Skelly Elementary School. The bicycles, helmets and bicycling education were gifts from local nonprofits. YMCA Summer Learning Institute Program Director Emma Sikich said the gift of the bicycles gives “these students an opportunity beyond the program – we hope it plants a seed for a new activity and physical development in families,” reports the Tulsa World.
By Luci Manning
Maria Ortiz, an Afterschool Ambassador and the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant director for Poudre School District, calls on parents, school systems, local and state governments and businesses to help students meet the need for summer learning opportunities across the country in a piece for the Coloradoan. She writes:
“Clearly, we need more summer learning programs, and just as clearly, the problem is funding them. Right now, the federal government provides some funding for summer learning, by way of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative — the principal federal funding stream for after-school programs. But the funding is insufficient to provide summer learning opportunities for all the kids who need them. Until we can find a way to fix that with contributions from parents, school systems, local and state governments, business, and individual donors, too many of our kids will spend more time with video games and remote controls than with all the wondrous opportunities that summer learning programs can offer them.”
In just one week, elementary school children participating in the Ashland Community and Technical College summer learning camp will have created more than 30 electronic devices including burglar alarms, night lights and police sirens. In this week’s camp the young students are learning theories behind various electrical components and are putting their knowledge to the test. Craig McDavid, the program’s instructor, told the Daily Independent the time he spent at this camp as a child motivated him to have a career in science and that he hopes these children are similarly inspired. He said that “this kind of hands-on learning is the best kind of learning. It’s what brings it home.”
Students at York Middle School’s (YMS) Summer Learning Academy are gaining some real world media experience and helping their community’s nonprofits in a big way. The students created commercials to help York Adopt-A-Pet and the Palmer Museum. Matt Maltsberger, YMS social studies and media productions teacher, told the York News-Times that summer learning programs allow students to have educational opportunities outside of the traditional classroom, “I think that getting kids in a different setting—a setting that lets them express themselves—is beneficial. It’s the ideal situation for great opportunities to learn.”
By Luci Manning
Freedom Summer organizer, Bob Moses, who led the historic African American voter registration movement 50 years ago, is back to rally for better education in Mississippi. At a Conference in Tougaloo, parents, experts and activists talked about what they can do to help students improve their test scores and prepare them for a successful future. “During the session, both panelists and audience members called for better funded schools, more access to pre-kindergarten, higher quality teachers and summer and after-school programs,” the Clarion Ledger reports.
Members of the Coast Guard taught Toledo’s Maritime Academy cadets basic swimming and treading techniques, scuba diving and rowing this summer. One cadet who was initially timid around the water now participates in the relay races and feels quite comfortable. Sheri Rodgers, an instructor at the academy told The Blade, “Because she knew all the new survival stuff, she got across the pool with confidence and with eyes big as saucers saying, ‘Look, I did it!’” The weeklong camp was funded by a grant from a 21st Century Community Learning Center.
The red-legged frog, which first gained popularity as the featured species in Mark Twain’s short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” is now a California state symbol, thanks to some civic-minded students at Sea View Elementary. The effort began in an afterschool program, and quickly gained popularity throughout the school. Sea View Elementary principal, Timothy Steele, communicated the exhilaration of the process. He told the Desert Sun, “It’s beyond exciting. It’s surreal.” Not only did the students learn about amphibians and the legislative process, but as Steele said, “we can make a difference no matter how old we are.”
As part of the 2014 Summer Learning Passport Program, New Britain students got a behind the scenes look at what it takes to publish a daily newspaper earlier this week. Over the course of the summer students will also visit the New Britain Fire Department, youth theatre, police department and Avery Beverages. At each stop of the summer learning initiative, students are taken behind the scenes to learn more about each industry.
While Congress remains stalled with the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the 2015 budget appropriations process; states and localities are experiencing considerable momentum. Among the jurisdictions making progress in advancing funding and policy for afterschool programs are Washington, D.C., New York state and California:
- In Washington, D.C., the city council recently passed their FY2015 budget, including a modest increase in the D.C. Public Schools Out-of-School Time Program to support afterschool and summer learning programs, resulting in a total funding level of $8.4 million. Funding to support community-based organizations providing expanded learning programming was held stable and includes $10 million for 21st Century Community Learning Center grants and $3 million for the D.C. Children & Youth Investment Trust Corporation. The D.C. community schools initiative was funded at $500,000.
- In New York state last week the governor announced awardees for the first round of Extended Learning Time grants, while in New York City the mayor recently released details of a $145 million expansion of middle school afterschool programs as well as $52 million for the development of 40 community schools. The $24 million Extended Learning Time grants were awarded to nine school districts statewide, including NYC. The state Department of Education has posted a list of the winners on its website. The $52 million grant to launch the development of 40 innovative community schools will match comprehensive social services and learning programs with 40 high-need public schools across NYC. Coupled with pre-K for every child and expanded afterschool programs for middle school students, the mayor pledged to make community schools a key component of transforming the education system and lifting up every child.
- In California last week, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced 333 programs will receive a combined $51 million in state and federal grants to provide expanded learning opportunities for students to bolster student learning outside of the regular school hours. In the latest round of funding, $51 million was distributed through three grants: the After School Education and Safety program, the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers—Elementary & Middle Schools program, and the state 21st Century High School After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens program. More information on the awarded grants can be accessed through the California Department of Education’s Before & After School webpage.
By Jen Rinehart
At the first-ever White House Maker Faire, Pres. Obama proclaimed June 18, 2014, a National Day of Making, saying, "I call upon all Americans to observe this day with programs, ceremonies and activities that encourage a new generation of makers and manufacturers to share their talents and hone their skills."
At the White House, a robotic giraffe, cupcake bicycles, a banana piano, homemade 3-D printers and 3-D printed pancakes, fiddles and more were all on display with the goal of inspiring makers across the country.
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Summer to Make, Play & Connect will keep that inspiration going throughout the summer. As part of the Summer to Make, Play & Connect, Mozilla’s Maker Party 2014—a campaign to teach Web literacy on a global scale through hands-on learning and making—will feature two months of hands-on making.
From July 15 through Sept. 15, educators and makers will host “learning parties” in schools, libraries, museums and community centers. Maker Party events feature people of all ages who are learning to code, making stop-motion animations, designing games, creating digital stories, fabricating wearable technologies, remixing websites, and so much more. Participants gain valuable Web literacy skills as they learn about the basic culture, mechanics and citizenship of the Web.
By Jen Rinehart
Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., have joined the rapidly growing Cities of Learning movement, a new effort to network citywide resources to keep youth (ages 4 to 24) engaged in educational and career opportunities when school lets out. Cities are funded by local partners and receive national support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Digital Youth Network and the Badge Alliance.
Cities of Learning offer free or low-cost opportunities for youth to learn online or participate in programming at parks, libraries, museums and other institutions. Whether through robotics, fashion design, coding competitions or workplace internships, Cities of Learning provide an array of engaging opportunities for young people to explore new interests, develop their talents, and create unique pathways toward college or a career.
Chicago launched the Cities of Learning movement in 2013 with a successful summer program that now continues year-round. This summer, Dallas, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh will kick off their Cities of Learning, with Columbus and Washington, D.C., joining the lineup this fall. More cities are planning to launch in 2015.
On the heels of National Summer Learning Day, there’s great news for kids in Michigan. Starting next year, Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) will host summer STEM camps for middle and high school students, thanks to a gift from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation. The foundation awarded the university a $5 million endowment to establish the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow STEM Scholar Network, which will support SVSU’s summer camps, as well as sponsor undergraduate research projects. The four-week, 160-hour middle school camp will reach 60 students and target those who are struggling academically. SVSU will also host three 80-hour high school camps reaching 36 students, with the goal to encourage more to pursue college degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. SVSU students and school staff will serve as mentors in the summer camp, a model based on a 2012 pilot program at a local middle school.
Afterschool and summer STEM programs engage and excite kids with real-world, hands-on learning, giving them opportunities to think about the STEM fields in new ways. Not only will SVSU’s summer camps help students avoid losing skills they’ve gained during the school year, but they will also help build interest and new capabilities in STEM. We hope to hear great things from this initiative!