Sunday, December 15, 2019
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Camp keeps 400 Balto. students on academic track

Tying reading, literacy, and even a little math to outdoor activities, including gardening, forestry, and dipping for crayfish, is the name of the game for about 400 Baltimore kids this summer at the Superkids Camp, established about 20 years ago in several neighborhood schools, the Baltimore Sun reports.

According to the camp’s data, 98 percent of the students who attend the six-week camp leave the program having either maintained or increased their reading proficiency. That is, there’s no summer slide for these kids, just summer fun.

Anthony Burgos, an assistant director of Superkids, said the low ratio allows the staff to deal more effectively with children who present behavioral challenges that get in the way of learning. He had to calm down a boy at Creative City Public Charter School in Park Heights who had been acting out on the bus on the way to Superkids.

“It’s a relaxed, open atmosphere.” the Sun quoted Anthony Burgos, an assistant director of Superkids, as saying, noting that staff members keep the interest up in kids by presenting them with fun activities and tying those activities to books or articles they may read. “We want to trick them to learn.” Liz Bowie concludes her article:

Students who said they had never seen a tomato, watermelon or cucumber could gently push the leaves aside to eye the growing vegetables and fruit, or goggle at the bugs consuming a Brussels sprout. There’s a meadow to wander through, a place to run and laugh while squirting each other with water.

There’s little doubt, especially among teachers of elementary students, that a lot of learning is lost over the summer, the so-called “summer slide” that students who don’t engage in enrichment activities over the summer experience.

Nobody’s all too sure this is actually a bad thing for kids, but the effect has been documented well enough, as we have reported on these pages before, among other places.

Camps like Superkids are, by far, one of the most popular summer enrichment activities available to elementary students. For example, the camp at Gloria J Parks Community Center in Buffalo, New York, is one of 41 across that city this summer, funded jointly by Buffalo Public Schools and partner Say Yes to Education, reports Jay Rey in the Buffalo News.

The camps are free, completely voluntary, and last for six weeks as well. Teachers at the camp stress enrichment—recreation, art, field trips—and mix that in with one-hour blocks for math and English language arts. First graders also get time to read.

“Our main goal for summer camp is that students do not experience what they call the summer slide,” the paper quoted Anne K Botticelli, the school district’s chief academic officer, as saying.

But, this summer in Baltimore, 200 slots at Superkids went unfilled.

“Most kids are not in summer camps,” Monica Logan, a vice president at the Baltimore-based nonprofit National Summer Learning Association, told the Buffalo News. “Most kids are home with their parents or with their relatives, so we know that’s actually where the bulk of the opportunity is.”

A good goal, according to a University of Buffalo professor quoted in the article, is probably for kids to spend at least a half hour a day doing academic work over the summer.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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