SUMMER MATTERS UPDATES
Visit Summer Matters online
Every Child Needs Summer Learning and Enrichment Opportunities
For some children, summertime is full of opportunity: camp; visits to museums, parks, and libraries; and access to a variety of fun and enriching activities. But for many low-income children, the reality of summer looks nothing like this ideal. When the school doors close for the summer, too many children are set loose to play on the streets unsupervised or, because of safety concerns, are forced to stay indoors, isolated and lonely. Research shows that children who lack access to enriching activities typically lose learning over the summer months and face a number of behavioral risks.
California has long been a leader in turning empty out-of-school hours into a time of excitement and enrichment for students. Now, building on the state’s unique, innovative system of after-school programs, communities across California are leading the way with a vision for how to fill the empty weeks of summer with enrichment and academic activities that form a bridge from one school year to the next.
Expanding Summer Opportunities for Low-income Children
To support this vision, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation is supporting a five-year strategy to expand summer enrichment opportunities for lower-income children in California. The strategy builds upon California’s unique, innovative system of after-school programs and leverages state and community partnerships to support the expansion of summer enrichment opportunities that incorporate enrichment and academics, with an emphasis on active learning, literacy, out-of-doors and nutrition. The ultimate vision of the five-year strategy is to catalyze and support the development of new summer enrichment opportunities in approximately 20 communities, extending 600 after-school programs into summer to serve 50,000 low-income children each summer.
In 2009, with support of the Foundation, after-school program providers, libraries, parks and other community groups joined forces in Gilroy, Fresno and Oakland to launch their unique vision for how children and youth in their communities should be spending their summers. Collectively, these programs expanded to serve approximately 1,500 children. In the summer of 2010, new grantees in Whittier and San Francisco joined the strategy, and in 2011, Sacramento City Unified School District, LA's BEST and Santa Ana-based THINK Together came onboard.
Technical Assistance for Summer Programs
A group of after-school and summer intermediaries—including the Partnership, the Packard Foundation and the National Summer Learning Association among others—is providing expert help and support to communities and fostering a cycle of learning about summer program design and practice. Each community is receiving comprehensive education, support, and resources to identify and overcome challenges they may face in expanding access to quality summer programs. All of the technical-assistance activities are designed to complement, build from, and connect with existing after-school resources so that summer enrichment is integrated into after-school and education planning.
In addition to providing support around program design and practice, the collaborative partners are working at local, state and national levels to build awareness and support for summer enrichment. The intermediaries are providing tools and technical assistance to communities to engage community leaders. At the state level, the partners are engaging statewide systems, including libraries and parks, to foster and leverage local partnerships, and informing state policy around summer enrichment. The intermediary collaboration is connecting California to a growing national movement with a collective vision for summer enrichment, through public awareness and engagement, including Summer Learning Day, a national celebration of summer programs.
Core Elements of the summer Enrichment Strategy
Bringing Summer to Life
Each community uses its own unique resources to serve the unique needs of its children and families during the summer. However, there are some common elements the communities share as they bring summers to life for the kids they serve.
Active Learning and Different Use of Time
The biggest advantage of summer is time. With a whole day at their disposal, free of class schedules and bells, kids and providers have more time to delve into projects, lessons, games, etc. This separation from school also changes one’s mind-set. Summer exists apart from the school year, away from tests and grades and report cards, providing even more freedom for fun and exploration that embed the very real learning that is happening every minute. Using that additional time for active or project-based learning will help students engage with the material and carry what they learned over the summer into the new school year.
Literacy is recognized as a critical building block for success in school and in life, and summer learning loss in reading has been identified as a primary source of the widening achievement gap between lower- and higher-income children and youth. Also, California’s public schools serve a high proportion of English-language learners, who especially need academic enrichment to improve language arts and literacy skills. The California Library Association and local branch libraries have been essential partners in each summer community, bringing kids to the library, sending the bookmobiles to schools and training program staff on teaching literacy skills. As a result, kids who have no books at home are getting library cards and getting excited about reading year-round.
California is known for its beautiful and varied natural landscape, from deserts to forests to beaches, but there are so many kids who, despite proximity to such natural resources, have never gotten to experience them. The California State Parks, working with local parks, have been a key partner for each community in introducing kids to the natural wonders that are within their reach. But this emphasis on taking education outside serves purposes beyond celebrating California kids’ natural heritage. Kids use all their senses when learning outside, which really cements their knowledge. Also, many kids find their intelligence lives outside, so a child who is mute in the classroom comes alive when talking about the birds on a nature walk.
Fitness and Nutrition
Given the nation’s rising rate of childhood obesity, which is exacerbated during the summer months , all programs are placing an emphasis on healthy food choices and structured opportunities for play and physical activity. Summer is the perfect time to play outside, and it’s a time when so many fruits and vegetables are available. In addition to providing healthy meals and snacks, programs are taking kids to local farmers markets and teaching them how to prepare healthy meals with healthy ingredients. Some parents have noticed that their overweight child has lost weight over the summer because they are so active in the program.
What Parents Want and What Students Need
Summer is traditionally a family time; parents want to spend time with their kids while they are on a break from school. At the same time, polling shows that California parents place a high priority on ensuring their kids don’t fall behind academically while school is out. They want their kids to both learn and have fun during the summer in programs that offer a variety of activities, including academics, sports, arts and other enrichment. Fortunately, the sort of varied programming parents want is exactly what research shows works to help kids keep learning during the summer.
Community Partnerships and Support
The key to providing a variety of activities is bringing a variety of partners together to support the summer programs. Cooperation between schools and community organizations strengthens all parties by leveraging and maximizing all of a community’s resources, a practice that is vital in such economically trying times. All our summer programs are working with a variety of partners, including parks and libraries. These partners provide unique resources and experiences for the children during the summer that broaden the children's horizons and strengthen their connections to their community’s resources for the rest of their lives.
Summer is the Season for Learning
Added together, these elements comprise a bold new vision for summer learning. This new vision for summer is what California should embrace when funding returns to schools and summer learning programs are restored. The new vision does not involve a choice between remediation and enrichment, or a conflict between family time and summer school. The new vision for summer in California brings together the best elements of what schools, communities and families have to offer to keep kids safe, engaged and learning when school is out.
Read More About Summer Learning and Enrichment
Please contact Katie Brackenridge, Director, Out of School Time Initiatives