Upstate programs keep kids engaged in learning when school is out
Summer means sleeping in, playing games, family time and no homework. But for some children it also means a slower start once they return to the classroom. The “summer slide” means students forget some of what they learned during the previous school year, but parents and summer enrichment programs can keep that slide in check.
Kamilah Staggers, interim director of BOOST Greenville, said her organization partners with summer and after-school programs to help them provide quality programs for children.
“Summer learning is definitely important because of summer slide,” she said. “Research shows that children lose about two months of academic progress.”
This is especially true for math and literacy skills.
“Keeping children engaged helps to prevent summer slide,” Staggers said. “It keeps them on track academically when they go back to school.”
Summer enrichment is important for all children, but those with lower household incomes are particularly vulnerable to losing academic ground.
“Generally, as students get older, the achievement gap actually widens,” Staggers said. “They aren’t getting access to these enrichment opportunities at home or parents may not be as knowledgeable or may not have time.”
Reducing the impact of summer slide doesn’t mean students have to spend the summer doing math problems instead of playing outdoors.
“Children have the opportunity to learn through any kind of enrichment activity,” Staggers said. “It gives them the opportunity to bring to life what they learn during the school year.”
Parents should seek summer enrichment programs that meet high standards. BOOST can help with that in Greenville County.
“We go in to measure the quality level of a program,” Staggers said. “We check to see if they are safe.”
Staggers said day cares and preschools have regulations that do not apply to after-school programs.
“BOOST provides safety standards,” she said. “Programs have to have emergency preparation programs. We look for the organization and structure to see what kind of training the staff has. We encourage parents to ask what kind of procedures they follow. How does the staff interact with children? Are there opportunities for parents to be involved? Ask if there is a code of conduct.”
But BOOST goes beyond first aid training and safety procedures.
“We don’t just look at physical safety,” Staggers said. “We want them to be psychologically safe.”
Staggers said it is important to consider issues like conflict management and whether or not there are clear rules regarding bullying.
Parents should also consider physical activities, healthy snacks and outside events.
“It depends on what parents are looking for,” Staggers said. “There is no one size fits all.”
For a list of partner organizations and more information, visit http://boostgreenville.org.
Located in the Berea area of Greenville County, Neighborhood Focus is a free, faith-based extended learning program that also offers summer enrichment. The organization has been a BOOST Quality Site for four years.
“We have a summer day camp program that I liken to vacation Bible school on steroids,” Keith Groce, the organization’s executive director, said. “As we’ve become more focused on the quality elements of our after-school program, what we’ve done in the summer has evolved a bit. There is some compelling research about the achievement gap between lower income students and middle and upper income students. A lot of that happens in the summer.”
As a result, Neighborhood Focus goes beyond the usual summer activities to include a STEM program, educational field trips, music, arts, Bible study and more.
“We need to come alongside and complement what happens during the school year,” Groce said.
To learn more, visit www.neighborhoodfocus.org.
When school’s out for the summer, FIKE students will get an extra boost to keep learning on track.
“We are trying to prevent that summer slump,” Cindy Marlar, the organization’s executive director, said.
FIKE — Fountain Inn Kid Enrichment — is a nonprofit organization and BOOST Quality Site that serves at-risk and under-resourced children who attend Fountain Inn Elementary School. The six-week summer program serves students who participate in their after-school program. The summer experience includes breakfast and lunch, math and reading enrichment, group time, field trips, character lessons and more.
Adam Ezell, the organization’s program director and a physical education teacher at Fountain Inn Elementary, said the summer program is fun and educational.
“We’re not coming in in August for the school year so far behind,” he said. “We don’t want them to skip a beat. We don’t want that lay off in the summer.”
Students who attend the program get homework help during the school year and they have a mentor who meets with them each week.
“Our program is definitely out of the box, but it’s important to make it fun, whether it’s outside or a group activity,” Marlar said. “Any time you let them enjoy what they’re doing without them knowing they are learning is a win for everybody.”
FIKE has a waiting list for students to participate. Mentors, homework helpers, reading buddies, physical donations and more are needed. To learn more, visit www.fikecenter.com.
Spartanburg County Parks
Spartanburg County Parks’ summer programs offer a traditional day camp option that gives children opportunities to build skills that go beyond the classroom.
“I think camps are very important in the development of the child,” Elise Gosnell, a recreation coordinator with the department, said. “They help children mature on a social level, intellectually, morally and on a physical level. It plays such a critical role in positive youth development.”
Gosnell said their summer camp program offers physical and emotional safety, supportive relationships, opportunities to belong to a group and more.
“We provide many team building activities,” she said. “They learn to cooperate and work together.”
Weekly themes include making choices, participating in outreach to the community, creative skills and games.
“We do things like take them to see plays and musicals and tour places that have geographical or educational interest,” Gosnell said. “We offer things that have value in learning and growth.”
For more information, visit http://spartanburgparks.org.