June 27, 2019 by HCDE Communications
In a break from school-year routine, 150 kids enrolled in summer enrichment programs are dancing, singing, acting, drumming and creating poetry. Little do they know while they have fun, they are preventing “summer slide” or summer learning loss.
Over the summer, students typically lose one month of school-year learning, and declines get worse the higher the grade level, according to “Review of Educational Research.”
Summer learning programs lessen the effects of summer slide and help teachers start the school year off with less reviewing.
Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Afterschool, Summer and Enrichment for Kids, or CASE for Kids, has hosted a program called Kids’ Day at Hobby Center for approximately 10 years. Students in elementary through high school are grouped with performing and visual artists, who are also known as afterschool service providers. The four-week program culminates with a performance at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.
“Summer learning opportunities are important because it allows students to explore interests they don’t get to pursue during the regular school day, especially fine arts curriculum,” said Lisa Thompson-Caruthers, director for CASE for Kids.
The service providers who may be professional actors, singers or dancers weave literacy and numeracy inside of their lessons. Step counts in dance provide opportunity for math sequencing. A video artist includes history in her video projects so that young videographers are doing research. Reading, discipline and memorization are interwoven in most of the fine arts projects.
“Our job is to find the providers that can ignite the passion in the kids while providing high-quality content,” Thompson-Caruthers said.
Chris Cortez, founder of Houston Healthy Hip-Hop, found his passion in afterschool as a middle-school introvert. When he found his purpose, his grades began to climb.
“It helped me break out of my shell,” Cortez said.
Thompson-Caruthers said another benefit of summer enrichment and fine arts is the social-emotional learning component. Today’s school schedule provides less time for self-expression, voicing opinion or creating personal relationships to share problems and find solutions.
For fourth grader Asher Hill, who says he is growing up in a tough neighborhood, participating in a poetry writing class gave him the chance to reflect on who he is and what he can become.
“I use my poetry to explain my identity,” he said.
Hip-hop performer Jackelin Miche from Baker-Ripley Charter School said her summer class in hip-hop has inspired her to take up dance as her new hobby.
“I get to make new friends, hang out with my current friends and have lots of fun,” she said. “I do activities I wouldn’t normally get to do when I might just be sitting around at home.”
Thompson-Caruthers assures skeptics that fine arts teaches kids to focus and pay attention and gets them to think about consequences. Without knowing your lines, you might not land the lead role in the school play. Without practice steps, you can’t build your dance progression.
“The key is to embed the learning into activities kids are passionate about, so they don’t even know they are working on higher-order thinking,” she said.
(National Summer Learning Week is celebrated July 8-13 to advocate the important of keeping kids learning, safe and healthy every summer and ensuring they return to school in the fall, ready to succeed. CASE for Kids provides resources and activities to promote the weeklong awareness campaign at www.afterschoolzone.org .)