By Tracy Lynn Calhoun, 3rd grade Mathematics Specialist, Pittsburgh King PreK-8 and PPS Summer Dreamers Academy leader
Out-of-school learning time is extremely important for today’s children. According to the National Summer Learning Association, gaps in student achievement that remain relatively constant during the school year widen significantly during the summer.
It’s our job as adults to help foster these young learners into the best people they can be. As a teacher and camp counselor, I have always wanted to find creative and unique ways to engage children, so they are excited to attend camp or school. I’ve found kids will give extra effort to do something they are actually interested in.
Ideally, every child in our community would have a summer camp to attend.
When we find more ways to engage students throughout the summer, they can grow academically and socially outside of the classroom. There are many reasons why this support is so critical for our community’s youth.
- Exploring interests: After-school programs and hobbies allow children to explore who they are, whether that’s during an art project at camp or playing basketball at an after-school program. Continued learning opportunities help children discover what their interests are and where their passions lie.
- Continue to develop reading and math skills: Children who don’t attend summer educational programs are at-risk of experiencing a drop in their reading and math development. By continuing to work these skills throughout the summer, they are more likely to succeed in both subjects, as demonstrated by a 2013-14 study completed by the RAND Corporation and the Wallace Foundation
- Staying healthy: During the school year, low-income children have access to both breakfast and lunch, along with recess and gym where they are up and moving. But during the summer months, access to three meals a day, let alone three healthy meals per day, becomes difficult. Actually, the National Summer Learning Association reports that six out of every seven students who receive free – and reduced – price lunches lose access to healthy meals when school lets out.
There are many opportunities to get involved. If you’re a local professional, share your career with young kids and help them explore career possibilities. If you’re a reading aficionado, volunteer to read to local kids or help tutor them. If you’re just a person who wants to help, consider giving your time, talent or treasure to support kids in out-of-school programs.
Let’s work together to celebrate the strengths of our community’s children and encourage them to take risks and learn new things all year round.
United Way of Southwestern PA’s Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time and community partners developed the Summer 17 initiative last year to make a more deliberate, community-wide effort to provide local kids with safe learning environments throughout the summer. APOST and United Way’s Be There attendance initiative partner closely with the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Summer Dreamers Academy to connect them to high-quality enrichment activities and provide fun activities for kids who meet their goals during the summer.