Happy Summer Learning Day!

Congratulations to the National Summer Learning Association for a great day of advocacy and awareness! To spread the word, TASC rounded up a great list of ideas and resources for a rich summer experience.

Guest post by Therese Workman, Web Communications Manager, TASC

Summer is nearly here, and school is letting out! Before we all kick off our flip-flops and nestle into hammocks, it’s good to take a look at some hard facts. According to the National Summer Learning Association, too much R+R without helping kids keep up their academic skills can result in more than just forgetting a few vocab words:pic 1

  • Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in math skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains.
  • More than half of the achievement gap between kids from lower and higher income homes can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, poorer kids are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.
  • Kids lose more than academic knowledge over the summer; those who are at high risk of obesity gain weight more rapidly during summer break.

So how do we keep kids engaged and active—outside of school? We’ve pulled together some creative ways to keep kids from slipping down that dreaded “summer slide:”

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“Play with Shrinky Dinks to learn about the fundamental law of physics: the ‘conservation of matter.’ A 5-year-old will immediately notice how the size of the Shrinky Dink actually increases, or in her words, ‘gets fatter,’ while cooking. So get out your rulers and have fun learning physics.” (Here’s a sample lesson plan.) – Jessica Donner, Director, Every Hour Counts

“When my now 20-year-old son was a boy, we liked to expand his horizons by taking him to see classic films in the park or to listen to outdoor music performances — mostly jazz festivals, like the Charlie Parker festival in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. You can bring food, relax and take in some great storytelling and inspiring musicianship.” (Check out the Bryant Park outdoor summer movie schedule) – Deborah Taylor, Regional Tutor Coordinator, MS ExTRA

“I’m a big fan of First Book and they’re big fans of summer reading! Right now, their blog is filling up with book lists for different age groups. As someone who spent lots of summers reading as a kid, I’m loving this way to beat the summer slide!” – Rebecca Forbes, Research Programs Specialist
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» EducationWorld has prepared a list of 25 Summer Learning Activites, including making your own ice cream, creating magic crystal gardens and building the “best paper plane in the world.”

» Scholastic’s 50 Ideas for Summer Learning are broken into categories by subject and grade level, including games for long car trips.

» The folks at ReadingRockets remind us that keeping up writing during the summer – in addition to reading – is also important. Check out ways to start up kid blogs, create summer trading cards and use geotagging to create scavenger hunts with your smartphone.

» The Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) has just announced even more opportunities for middle school-aged participants in summer enrichment programs. Be sure to check out the new additions and pre-enroll by June 30.

 
Do you have any activities or ideas to keep summer both fun and productive? Let us know in the comments!

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More Summer Learning on the Way

Guest post by Tiffany Gueye

What happens when two national nonprofits team up to expand learning time? The Power Scholars Academy™ is created, and a pathway to scale summer learning opportunities emerges.

This June, BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) and YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) are working together to deliver BELL’s summer learning model through eight YMCA associations and their partner schools in Montgomery, AL; Denver, CO; Hartford, CT; Washington, DC; Clearwater and Orlando, FL; St. Paul, MN; and San Antonio, TX.

Students in a BELL program rehearse a dance performance. Photo courtesy of TASC.

Students in a BELL program at P.S. 15 in Queens, NY, rehearse a dance performance. Photo (c) John Abbott Photography.

Here’s how it works: BELL is training Power Scholars Academy leadership teams in each community. We are providing academic curriculum, supporting program operations through technical assistance, overseeing quality assurance, and evaluating outcomes. YMCAs are enrolling students, recruiting, hiring and training staff, managing program operations, delivering enrichment activities, and facilitating school partnerships. Partner schools are providing use of classrooms and other facilities, as well as transportation, breakfast and lunch for scholars, supporting teacher recruitment, identifying enrollment criteria for students, and providing additional in-kind support. BELL and the Y are each raising philanthropic support from donors such as The Wallace Foundation so that the Power Scholars Academy can be delivered free-of-cost to families, and to enable BELL and the Y to thoughtfully plan and prepare for program expansion.

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“New Vision” for Summer Includes a Systems Approach

“Summer and extended learning are a life-saving experience. That’s not an exaggeration.”

It was a grand statement, especially coming from New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, the leader of the largest school district in the United States. Fariña’s remarks were a fitting opening at the May 19 convening of the New Vision for Summer Schools Network, a national coalition of 30 school districts committed to advancing summer learning. Bringing together community organizations, city and district leaders, policymakers, and funders, the day’s focus was on building systems-level approaches to summer learning to advance both equity and excellence.

During the opening to the event, which was hosted by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) at the Ford Foundation’s headquarters in New York, Chancellor Fariña and others highlighted the benefits of summer learning—among them, stronger reading and vocabulary skills, field trips to new places, mentorship from a caring adult, and the opportunity for “hangout time,” which is of particular value for adolescents.

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Closing the Enrichment Gap: The Power of Data

What does a genuine 21st-century education system look like? Well, for starters, it closes academic achievement gaps, gaps in health and wellness, and enrichment gaps among all young people.

    Emmanuele Rosario, 6th grade, and Daniel Wu, 8th grade, demonstrate an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle that they built in the SeaPerch afterschool program.

Two Orlando middle-schoolers demonstrate an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle that they built in the SeaPerch afterschool program.

Sounds like a tall order, but for Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Paul Reville, nothing short of it will suffice to provide every student with the tools to succeed—to show that “‘all’ means all” when we talk about educating every one of our nation’s youth.

Reville, who formerly served as Massachusetts Secretary of Education, was the opening speaker at last week’s National Conference on Summer Learning in Orlando, FL (Nov. 11-13), and in his speech he hit on themes that not only resonated for the expanded-learning providers in the audience, but also captured some of the current zeitgeist in education reform. He made an eloquent case for individualized and differentiated learning, calling it a “logical fallacy” to argue that the same thing (i.e., content, instruction) for the same amount of time will work to bring every kid to the same level, when each kid starts out from a different place. And he encouraged those present to stop calling social-emotional skills “soft skills” and instead legitimize them alongside academic development with identifiable and measurable metrics.

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Summer Learning Day—A Celebration and a Challenge

Guest post by Bob Seidel

This Friday, June 21, is Summer Learning Day.  It’s a day to celebrate summer learning successes—and to challenge all of us to make high-quality summer learning opportunities a reality for all who need them.

Why is this so important?  If we don’t exercise our brains for an entire summer, we lose much of what we’ve learned.  Research shows that, without stimulating summer activities, students tend to lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in math.  Low-income students also tend to lose more than two months in reading achievement.  The cumulative effects of summer learning loss mean that as much as two-thirds of the ninth-grade achievement gap in reading is attributable to differences in summer learning opportunities in the elementary years.

Summertime is also important for young people’s health and nutrition.  Without access to organized programs providing opportunities for exercise, young people’s tendency toward obesity becomes aggravated.  And among those who receive federally-subsidized meals during the school year, only one in seven receives those meals during the summer.

The good news is that there are effective solutions out there.  Research shows that high-quality summer learning programs not only stem summer learning loss, they help students make positive gains. A recently published report from California’s Partnership for Children and Youth, Summer Matters:  How Summer Learning Strengthens Students’ Success, showed that during a six-week program in the summer of 2012, students improved their vocabulary by nearly 1.5 grade levels [pdf, 2.9 MB].

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