By Luci Manning
A 4-H program in Minneapolis is teaching Somali youth about the scientific process and trying to encourage an interest in scientific fields among students who recently moved to the United States. About 30 students in the afterschool program recently ventured to City Hall to show council members the science projects they worked on during the school year, including an LED light board and a pulley-based miniature ski lift. “It broadens the horizons of our youth,” Council Member Abdi Warsame told the Star Tribune. “Math and science and engineering are the keys to the future.”
The District of Columbia has an ambitious plan to stem the “enrichment gap” many low-income students experience: to send every DC public school student on two study-abroad trips before they graduate, completely free of cost. This summer, 400 8th and 11th grade students went on fully paid international trips to countries like China, France and Nicaragua. “Many of our wealthy kids would have international experiences whether we provide them or not,” chancellor Kaya Henderson told Education Week. “But so many of our kids would never have this experience if we didn’t provide it.” The program not only covers all travel, lodging and chaperone costs, but even provides a minimum-wage stipend to families who rely on their teen’s income from a summer job.
Sixteen teens from Port Huron Schools explored the intricacies of television production at a free week-long camp this summer. The eighth- through 11th-grade students learned about project planning, storytelling, camera and audio work, post-production editing and on-camera presenting using professional-level equipment from EBW.tv. “We wanted to train students who were interested in production,” PHS director of community relations Keely Baribeau told the Times Herald. “That’s what this is really all about – getting some career skills into the hands of these students.” Baribeau hopes the camp motivates students to join a similar afterschool program this year.
Several middle school students spent their summer working hard on their improvisation, production and performance skills at the Sawyer Summer Stage program, the Southwest View reports. The summer program will culminate with performances of “War at Home,” a 9/11 memorial play compiled from journal entries written by New York State high school students in the wake of the terror attacks. Several Sawyer students will also contribute their own essays about the way 9/11 changed the world and the lessons our country can learn from the aftermath.
By Luci Manning
About a dozen Grand Haven students are building relationships with their community and stemming the summer slide at Grand Haven Area Public Schools’ Eastown Community Completing Homework in a Learning Lab (C.H.I.L.L.) program. The group meets twice a week to read, play math games, go on field trips and participate in a number of community service projects. The students have had a chance to serve meals at the Salvation Army, work in a community garden, help out at a food pantry and blow up basketballs for another summer recreation program. Coordinator Cathy Hegedus told the Grand Haven Tribune that the program teaches students to give back without it feeling like a chore.
Low-income youths in Oakland often have little access to technology at home, so the East Oakland Youth Development Center is trying to build their digital literacy over the summer and after school. Apple recently donated 40 iPads to the Center, allowing students in the six-week summer program to go on virtual scavenger hunts, research life in other countries and mix music on GarageBand. “This is bringing a whole new world inside their backyard in a way that’s safe for them to explore,” Center president Regina Jackson told USA Today. The Center also holds afterschool tutoring, college preparation courses, music and art lessons and health and wellness programs.
An afterschool running and community service program is keeping students active and building supportive relationships among them and their peers. The program, which is put on by the Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon, held a fun relay activity last week for second and third graders at Kalaheo Elementary School. According to Robin Jumper, who runs the Kauai Marathon Youth Running Program, the group works with schools around the island to get kids up and moving. “We just want to inspire kids to get outside and have fresh air,” she told the Garden Island. “They don’t have to win races. They don’t have to be the best. It’s more about participation and just getting outside and getting some exercise.”
Students in the Lights On Afterschool Green Construction Academy spent three weeks designing blueprints, hauling wood and building trusses to construct a new pavilion at Thermopolis Middle School. The Academy’s summer course tries to mimic a regular construction workweek – four ten-hour days every week – and even has students clock in and fill out time sheets. In addition to learning important entry-level construction skills, the youths also earn a $300 stipend and get to take home their own fully-stocked tool belt. Student Ashley Brawley said she’s glad to have spent her summer in the program. “I am not really the type to woodwork or build, to be honest,” she told the Thermopolis Independent Record. “This was a huge step outside my comfort zone, and I don’t regret it.”
By Luci Manning
Students at the Bayonne Youth Center are being given the chance to build self-confidence thanks to a new partnership with the Bayonne Police Department. Several police officers volunteered to mentor the youths for a year, participating in community service opportunities, field trips and educational lectures. “The officers and children have face to face interactions within the community a minimum of one hour per week and act as role models, friends and a support system for them,” Police Lt. Juan Carlos Betancourth told Jersey Journal.
A five-day leadership retreat has armed some 60 students with the knowledge needed to implement new initiatives to support diversity and inclusiveness in their schools this fall. The Emerging Student Leaders Institute program helps students to confront ingrained stereotypes and prejudices. Upon completing the program, the students built action plans to create clubs, workshops, assemblies and awareness campaigns to foster diversity appreciation among their classmates. “When we experience the cycle of prejudice, most times we don’t realize it’s there,” 17-year-old Chanel Rodriguez told the Daily Press. “But when we break down the word and examples, you notice that it happens in everyday life, so it can be definitely implemented into our school system to make safe and open places for people to be themselves.”
Best Buy employees spent two days teaching middle and high school students how to compose and produce their own music, create digital films and develop designs for 3-D printing at the Geek Squad Academy summer computer camp. The camp received a special visit last week from U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, who praised the program, telling the Morning Call that it’s good to see “young people are taking time out of their summer holiday to learn, to develop skills that will serve them well in life.” Best Buy runs 30 such camps around the country, aiming to connect with low-income students especially.
About 30 Norwich middle school students gave special gifts showing their appreciation to the city’s police officers and veterans last week. The youths assembled brown paper bags filled with sweet treats for the officers as part of the Acts of Kindness Project, a six-week summer learning camp focused on service learning projects. According to the Norwich Bulletin, camper Zarya Neal presented the “survival kits” to the officers at a special assembly, describing what was in each bag—candies like Life Savers, “to remind you of the many times you’ve been a life-saver,” Paydays, “because you are not doing it for the money” and Tootsie Rolls, “to help you roll with the punches.”
By Luci Manning
Two Marin high schoolers are building a love for the environment in younger students through a surfing summer camp. The free program targets underprivileged preteens who may not know much about environmental stewardship. Students receive more than just surfing lessons at the camp—they also learn about warming ocean temperatures and ocean life. Scott Tye, chairman of the Marin chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, told the Marin Independent Journal, “The goal is to preserve and maintain our beaches and teach about it in a positive way.” The program operates under the umbrella of the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation.
Vermont Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe makes the case for summer learning programs in the Rutland Herald: “Summer doesn’t always promise the same opportunities for all of Vermont’s students, especially those students who live in poverty…. It doesn’t have to be this way. We know that access to good nutrition, health care, responsive adults and safe and supportive environments can help even the most challenged child thrive and learn. If we don’t provide these conditions, we are essentially manufacturing inequity at the level of the brain…. High-quality summer learning programs and strong after-school programs, coupled with food programs, will go a long way towards narrowing our opportunity and achievement gaps.”
Boston Afterschool and Beyond partnered with Outward Bound, Boston Public Schools and the National Parks Service to put together a top-notch, free summer learning program for low-income students in Boston. The program, hosted on Thompson Island, uses the surrounding natural environment to engage some 70 students in hands-on science lessons. Instructors try to take a holistic approach to their teaching, giving students the skills to reason and analyze and apply the lessons to their everyday lives, rather than just drill them with facts from a book. “If a student isn’t excelling in one kind of environment September through June, why would go and stick them back in that same environment for the whole summer?” Boston Afterschool and Beyond summer learning program director David McAuley told the Christian Science Monitor.
Statistics show that 87 percent of venture capital-backed startup founders are white—but this doesn’t faze the Young Hustlers, a group of minority preteens who started their own business making music and selling branded clothing. The business grew out of the 15 Seeds afterschool program, which provides underprivileged students a space to explore what they’re passionate about. The program gives youngsters, most of whom live in public housing, a chance to make money without resorting to gangs, drugs or violence. “When people hear where you live, where you’re from, they think they know you,” group hip-hop artist Dominique told the San Francisco Chronicle. “But they don’t know…. We’re making a difference. We’re entrepreneurs.”
By Luci Manning
Young women in New Orleans have spent the last few weeks learning about cyber bullying, social media responsibility and how to build their self-confidence at Camp Beautiful this summer. The camp is run by the Beautiful Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to empower and educate young women by teaching them leadership skills. “It’s like being with not just friends, but a real family every day,” eighth-grader Symone Bolds told The Advocate. “Here I can say anything and nobody judges me. We’re all here to help each other and to have fun.” The group runs summer and afterschool programs that have empowered more than 2,500 girls and helped them build relationships with one another.
For the last 12 years, Grace Place has been aiding non-English speaking families in Golden Gate with early learning programs, adult education, food pantries and the eight-week Grace Place Academy of Leaders Summer Program. This summer, 144 elementary and middle school students are attending the academy to keep their math and English skills fresh until school starts again in the fall, the Naples Daily News reports. Students also get to partake in weekly field trips to museums and local businesses through the program.
Low-income students often don’t have access to the innovative, educational summer camps that their more privileged peers do, but several groups in the Bay Area have set out to remedy that. Aim High, BELL and the Gilroy Unified School District’s Super Power Summer Camp provide free summer programming for underprivileged students that mix academics with fun, out-of-the-box activities. Aim High’s offerings range from jewelry making to slacklining to graphic-novel designing. “We think learning should be joyful, relevant and engaging,” Aim High cofounder Alec Lee told the East Bay Times. The program is hosting 2,200 middle school students this summer.
A lot of second- and third-generation Hispanic immigrants in the United States don’t have the same connection to their heritage that their parents or grandparents might have, but a number of students in Oklahoma City are learning more about their roots through a special mariachi camp this summer. Learning the Mexican style of music can help to bridge the cultural gap between these youths and their families, according to camp coordinator Robert Ruiz. “The kids can be passionate about these traditions,” he told the Daily Oklahoman. The summer camp hopes to expand to a full-time afterschool program this school year.
By Luci Manning
Employees at the Cornerstone Community Center got help providing summer meals to students last week from two Tulsa city councilors. The center’s Summer Café program offers breakfast and lunch weekdays throughout the summer to ensure students are getting healthy, filling meals when school is out. “The program itself (Summer Café) is hugely important,” Councilor Anna America told Tulsa World. “We’ve got thousands and thousands of kids who don’t have basic needs met. For many of these kids, during the school year they’ll get breakfast and lunch from the school. Over the summer, it’s a huge problem.”
Various Topeka community organizations last week came together to put on a special “Meet and Eat” event to celebrate Summer Learning Day and promote literacy and healthy eating habits for students. The event was held at Boom Comics, which handed out free comics to participating children. Harvesters and the Kansas Department of Education’s summer food service program collaborated to provide a free meal for students while other groups gave out free books and put together games. “It’s not just a positive for the communities that are involved here – the small business owner, the nonprofits – but the kids win. And that’s what we’re about,” Harvesters government programs manager Angela Jeppesen told the Topeka Capital-Journal. “We want these kids to win. We want them to be positively supported by the community.”
Teens have been using the Troy Recreation Hall (better known as the Rec) to play basketball, work on homework and catch up with their friends for 75 years. “The Rec has survived over the years because it has had tremendous community support as well as its ability to meet the ever changing needs of the youth of Troy,” Rec board president Andrew Wannemacher told Dayton Daily News. The Rec offers free afterschool activities for middle school and high school students, including basketball, dodgeball, billiards, ping-pong and video games, and also provides computers and a homework room for students to get some extra work done.
A new program launching in New York City will give 4,000 students from underserved areas the opportunity to explore STEM fields this summer. Last week, City School Chancellor Carmen Fariña unveiled the STEM Summer in the City classes, which will teach topics like computer coding, video game design and robotics to students in grades two through ten. According to the Daily News, Fariña sees STEM and summer learning as “critical pieces of putting our students on the path to college and careers,” especially for at-risk children who may not otherwise have such opportunities.
By Luci Manning
The Woodlands Children’s Museum is hosting workshops on Shakespearian theater, arts and crafts and chemistry this summer, but the museum’s Lego robotics course is by far the most popular. The elementary schoolers learn to reverse engineer Lego robots using their knowledge of gear ratios and construction, building up to five robots a week. “We educated, empowered and excited them, and they didn’t even know,” museum executive director Angela Colton told the Houston Chronicle. The course shows students how fun working with technology can be while helping them develop skills like teamwork, problem solving and creativity.
Underprivileged youths rarely get to enjoy the opportunities that come with afterschool activities and summer camps. But for more than 40 years, Camp Susan Curtis in the foothills of western Maine has provided a place for economically disadvantaged students to participate in all the outdoor activities summer camp is known for while also providing free educational programs to build confidence and job skills for the future. All the campers come from disadvantaged homes and many are on the autism spectrum, but at Camp Susan Curtis they learn how to set goals, think critically about the world around them and build their self-esteem, the Portland Press Herald reports.
Hundreds of Auburn students are learning about how rockets work, how to build robots and what happens when you mix Mentos with Diet Coke at summer camps all over the area. STEAM-based summer programs are popping up all over Auburn, from the Boys & Girls Club to the Colfax Library. The programs not only help stem the summer slide, but also focus on social-emotional learning, forging friendships, improving teamwork and creative problem-solving. “(Students) see a challenge and work to fix it. If it doesn’t work out great the first time they reassess,” Boys & Girls Club program director Jennifer Cross told the Auburn Journal. “It’s a great life lesson.”
Weston resident Gabriela Low thinks young people today spend too much time on their cell phones, so she has started running afterschool programs at Weston public schools encouraging students to work on hand-on creative projects, primarily sewing and knitting. The enrichment classes helps students build fine motor skills and give them a chance to work independently to develop their individual creativity. “When the kids complete a project in my class and see the end product, it raises their self-esteem and gives them something to feel good about,” Low told the Weston Forum. “Also, the process of sewing, knitting or braiding seems to help the kids focus and relax.” Low hopes to expand her program to the middle school and high school, where she would teach fashion design and other more complex programs.
By Luci Manning
Elementary and middle school students are learning how to better secure their computers, phones and tablets at Global Business Solutions Inc.’s (GBSI’s) Summer Cyber Camp. The program teaches students about the dangers of sharing personal information with strangers and shows them how to create complex passwords to protect their devices. The camp aims to expose young people to cybersecurity and computer science to encourage them to pursue careers in those fields. “The goal is to get them young and to get them interested,” GBSI technical writer Steve Samaha told the Pensacola News Journal.
Lisa Burris thinks young students today suffer from a nature deficit, so she’s trying to give them opportunities to explore the outdoors at her Turn Back Time Farm. The nonprofit farm offers summer camps, home schooling and afterschool programs for students of all abilities, but particularly for children with special needs who may have trouble thriving in a traditional classroom. “The overarching goal is just play,” Burris told The Landmark. “It happens naturally, and it ticks all the boxes – development, gross motor skills. Kids learn, heal, negotiate through play.” The 58-acre farm boasts a trail system, a cultivated garden and plenty of farm animals for children to interact with, including goats, pigs and a pony.
Nearly a thousand Charleston County elementary schoolers are learning to be scientists and creative problem solvers at EPIC summer camp. Many of the students spend the whole day at EPIC (which stands for Engaging, Purposeful, Innovative, Creative), working on STEM projects in the mornings and art and other enrichment activities in the afternoons. The camp aims to improve students’ social skills and keep them learning over the long summer months so they don’t fall behind at the start of the school year. “I really like it because you can learn a lot so you don’t forget in the summertime,” fourth-grader Leila Nadar told the Post & Courier. “I’ve always had a hard time when I get back from the summer and I’m like, Oh my God, I forgot everything, but now I won’t forget.”
While many students lose ground in core academic subjects over the summer, 150 students in the Horizons summer program are gaining two to three months of reading proficiency, improving their math skills and learning how to be stronger communicators. The students, most of whom are at risk of falling behind their peers during the school year, spend their summer days on Butler College’s campus participating in classroom activities and field trips meant to sharpen their academic and social skills in all areas, including art, STEM, physical fitness and community service. They also get a glimpse into the college life, showing them that they could succeed after high school as well. “It makes me so happy because I get to see people eating lunch and they’re in college,” 13-year-old Quintez Tucker told the Indianapolis Star. “That makes me think I can do it. I walk past the door and see them in class, I know I can do that.”