Summer learning attracts attention of National Academies

by Jen Rinehart

In late August, the Board on Children, Youth & Families at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine hosted a day-long workshop focused on summertime opportunities to promote healthy child and adolescent development. Back in 1999, a similar workshop focused on Opportunities to Promote Child and Adolescent Development During the After-School Hours led to the publication of Community Programs to Promote Youth Development, a resource for funders, policy makers and afterschool practitioners. 

It was great to see the National Academies return attention to the important role of out-of-school learning. The summertime opportunities workshop highlighted the latest research on summer and explored linkages between summer programs and the broader ecosystem of learning, including schools, museums, libraries and afterschool programs. It was a day full of great discussions that reflected the diversity of summer and afterschool programs from the topics covered to the organizations featured. There were sessions on the achievement gap, the value of play, reducing obesity, city-systems, program quality and evaluation and role of afterschool and summer in the overall learning ecosystem. A sampling of a few of the organizations on the panels include the Association of Children’s Museums, the Food Research and Action Center, the National League of Cities and the American Institutes for Research. The Afterschool Alliance was also grateful to be a part of a panel that focused on discussing what an ecosystem that supports a holistic approach to a child’s development looks like, alongside representatives from the YMCA of the USA and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The day-long workshop set the stage for a potential bigger “consensus study” effort that would ultimately provide conclusions and recommendations to inform federal, state, and local policy decisions about how best to use the summer months to support the healthy development of America's children. With new research out from the RAND Corporation and The Wallace Foundation, which shows gains in math and reading among elementary school students with high levels of attendance in voluntary summer learning programs, the timing of a more thorough investigation into summer learning by the National Academies could not be better!

The PowerPoint presentations from the workshop are available on the National Academies website and videos of the workshop sessions will be posted to in the next couple of weeks. An 8-page written summary of the workshop proceedings is anticipated to be released in early November, which we will be sure to share with readers.

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