This post was originally published on Seattle Medium
By Aaron Allen
As children look forward to summer break, many parents and educators worry about “summer learning slumps” or academic setbacks that can occur when students are away from structured learning environments over a significant period of time.
Dr. Keisha Scarlett, Assistant Superintendent of Academics of the Seattle Public School District, says that it is important for kids to engage in activities that will stimulate their minds throughout the summer.
According to Scarlett, Seattle Public Schools offers a wide array of summer activities, but she also encourages parents to take advantage of all of the indoor and outdoor activities that Seattle has to offer like museums, libraries and places that local families might take for granted like the Pike Place Market, Space Needle and other local landmarks.
“This is connected into this pandemic and about re-opening Seattle, and our families knowing what Seattle has to offer,” says Scarlett. “There are so many great opportunities during the summer for families and students to get out as places re-open that have long been accustomed to welcoming families and students.”
Learning is a daily occurrence, and many educators say that parents should utilize all resources at their disposal to give their children an opportunity to sharpen their intellectual capabilities and empower them to reach their full potential over the summer.
Scarlett believes that summer breaks provide a great opportunity for families to explore the city, and she says there are many creative ways in which parents/guardians can occupy the time and minds of their children while preparing them for success in the upcoming school year.
“There are a lot of informal learning opportunities [in Seattle],” says Scarlett. “Our museum continues to have Tuesdays free, so families can organize time to go and visit our cities museums. Visiting urban gardens and farmers markets are opportunities. We have our Seattle Public library systems and its [103-year history of] providing safe spaces for learning.
“This is important for our students to continue being engaged, there are things developmentally I think are important such as reading, students spending time reading, reading helps students avoid that summer slide,” adds Scarlett, who says that it is important to children “from in front of their devices” and explore the natural wonders of their own neighborhood.
SPS and its community partners also provide students with an array of summer schools programs designed to continue to develop young minds particularly those experiencing setbacks or the slump.
“We have a variety of partners out there that are eager to collaborate,” says Scarlett. “Organizations like Africatown, they provide summer programs, we have tremendous organizations like ACE Academy (Academy for Creating Excellence) and having a repository of information to share with parents and guardians is very important.”
SPS also offers in-class instruction through its Summer Staircase Program. This program, which is offered to elementary, middle school and high school students by referral, is designed as an inclusive learning opportunity for all students, including students served in Special Education. All students are welcome to apply, but preference will be given to students that are below grade level as determined by classroom-based assessments.
“This [program] is typically for students who may need some other academic support,” says Scarlett. “For summer slide also to help sustain new information, to help accelerate learning in areas of language, math and science. For high school students there are some Summer Staircase opportunities, there are two, one is a longer-term credit retrieval program that stretches the duration of the summer with in-person learning.”
Keeping our children engaged and sustaining their momentum between school years is vital to their success. Regardless of the adversities communities have experienced like the pandemic, educators like Scarlett believe in the importance of summer programming just as she believes in the abilities of the students and families she serves.
“The first thing is our students are learning, they have continued to learn since the beginning of the pandemic,” says Scarlett. “I think it is a falsehood to believe that our children weren’t learning during the pandemic. Our students may have experienced schooling loss, but they were learning even throughout the pandemic and school shut downs and with our help and guidance they will continue to learn and succeed.”
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