Instructional Coach: From Coaching to Confidence

How do counselors with minimal teaching experience successfully and effectively execute a hands on, engaging lesson – that feels nothing like school?

The Summer Learning Collaborative tackles this challenge with an innovative position on an unprecedented scale:  the instructional coach.

This summer, with the support of funding from Laffey Mchugh and United Way, sixteen SummerCollab Instructional Coaches spent their summer working with counselors across seven community based agencies.

On a typical day, IC’s spend their time observing counselors, providing feedback on the execution of the lessons, and developing comprehensive plans for improvement. They act as a catalyst for growth of both the counselor’s skills and the camp’s moral.

Meet Kaitlyn: during the school year, she’s a Third Grade Special Ed teacher at East Side Charter, but in the summer months she utilizes her teaching abilities as the IC at the Latin American Community Center. “At the beginning of the summer, TC’s were uncertain in their ability to execute curriculum. Now it is week 5, and it’s been incredible to see how the they have improved. I see the TCs taking ownership of the curriculum and confidently making it their own.”

Holding counselors accountable, not under an authority figure but from someone who works on the same team, has created amazing results. Throughout the summer, IC’s and TC’s develop strong relationships with one another. The TC’s feel free to share their feelings and concerns, and the IC’s work countless hours to help them improve. Across the board, counselors who originally had their “pants on fire,” are gaining new skills. They have became more comfortable talking in front of the class and managing behavior issues.


“I saw my TC’s confidence grow leaps and bounds from week 1 to week 5,” says Laura, the Instructional Coach from Shortlidge Academy, “The TC I worked with fully bought into the SLC curriculum. Recently, she developed a background lesson to prepare kids for a lesson on perimeter and area, and after she taught it, she came back saying ‘that felt so awesome.’”

At the YMCA, IC’s Anyea and Tiffany saw immense growth in their TC’s as well, especially in their ability to problem-solve. There was a curriculum club scheduled in the gym, which was far from an optimal learning space. In order to minimize distraction, the TC’s found a whiteboard and set up tables and chairs  in a “U” formation. All of the children were much more engaged and comfortable, and the TC’s gained confidence in their abilities to innovate and keep the children on task by changing the environment.

As IC’s and TC’s continue to work together, the mission of SLC – to help children learn during the summer months – has begun to be fully present in camps. “Some kids began to catch onto why we was there as opposed to why they were there. They knew the TC’s and I were there to make sure the lessons were going smoothly. We observed that some children were doing activities because of genuine interest and a desire to excel, while others took longer to warm up to the idea of learning in the summer. It was inspiring to see their “let’s just get this over with” attitudes develop into deep fascination with the different activities.”

As most IC’s are teachers, this experience has greatly shaped how the they will go back into their classrooms in the fall. “This was my first time in a leadership coaching role, and it was difficult to take a backseat in the classroom. But coaching made me more confident in my TC, and in turn, I learned so much from watching her teach. I figured out things I had never known about myself and that has made me more confident as a teacher,” says Laura, IC at Shortlidge Academy, who has a very strong bond with her TC, Catherine.
This experience also provides insight into exactly how much kids need to continue learning in the summer and the potential the summer space holds. “I’ve seen kids intrigued. I’ve seen TC’s get into the lessons, and I’ve seen kids ask questions. I saw this opportunity and I thought – I believe in everything this organization stands for – I have to help,” says Bain Manley, the Instructional Coach at West End Neighborhood House, “When you see something spark in a child, you know that spark will not die out. There is only forward from here.”


Catherine, a TC from Shortlidge saw this spark: “I have a child who never wants to do their work due to low confidence. When we were doing a math lesson, I asked him to show me his work after every problem. We worked through it together, and I gave him positive feedback. Soon, he completed every single problem, and as he held up his paper, I knew this was a feeling completely and wonderfully new to him.” This sort of interaction is exactly what the IC’s foster, and evidence to their widespread impact in the camp.

This unique organizational model provides support on many levels. Most directly at the TC role, but it also to the children. The IC’s have the opportunity to get to know all the different personalities of the kids in order to better personalize and shape their learning experience. As I spoke to Laura, she teared up as she said, “They just want love, and this speaks to every layer of the Collaborative – that’s why we are all here. We’re in each other’s corners. There is ‘no I’m telling you what to do’ whether that be between team members or TC and kids – there is just mutual understanding and love.”

Why Not Make a Difference?

“In the end…we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make – Lewis Carroll

There are close to 50,000 kids in Delaware who are living in poverty. Many have only a single parent, and almost all wonder when their next meal will be. Simply put, these kids have been thrust into an environment where they must struggle to survive. Not thrive… survive.
Educational access, and the development of skills such as reading, writing, math, etc. is lacking for our highest-need youth. The consequent achievement gap is precisely why something like the Summer Learning Collaborative is a need in our community.
Choosing to work with the SummerCollab this summer has been a truly eye-opening experience from start to finish… I took a chance on something that I truly believe in, I built lasting relationships with not only my students, but also my fellow visionaries at the SummerCollab, and I decided to utilize my skills in a way that would make a difference in someone’s life. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.
November 8, 2015. The day I first found out about the SummerCollab, its mission, its goals. I distinctly remember my first foray onto the SummerCollab website, and being completely overwhelmed by the disheartening facts about the achievement gap that are peppered throughout the various tabs.
According to research done in the city of Wilmington, Delaware, low-income children lose up to 3 months of learning in the summer, as opposed to high-income children, who gain up to 2 months of learning throughout the summer months. More than half of the achievement gap between low and high income youth is a direct result of summer learning loss.
To me, that is simply unacceptable. Why should these kids not be given the same opportunities as everyone else? Why shouldn’t I be putting time and effort into ensuring a better future for these children?


Throughout the summer, I interacted with kids who not only embraced me as one of their own, but were also among the most talented, loving, and curious children I had ever met. I still recall one of my favorite kindergarteners, Jaquell Staple, engaging with me in a, I kid you not, 30-minute conversation, using only the word “why.”
Besides building relationships with my campers, I graded numerous writing and math artifacts, and compiled data to determine which kids needed individualized attention, which kids required an enhanced curriculum, and which kids seemed to be doing just fine.
At the end of eight long weeks at camp, I was utterly exhausted. From prep work every morning to grading each afternoon to recording data each Friday, the workload was tremendous. But the reward was well worth the sweat and tears (literally).
From the onset of SummerCollab curriculum to the conclusion of SummerCollab curriculum, I saw firsthand the phenomenal growth of these kids. I saw the insatiable desire in these kids to become something more, to defy and even break the shackles that had been imposed upon them by this world – and to be a part of that was truly remarkable.
So, that is my story. But what is yours? So often we are told that we teenagers are the future of this world. That we have the power to make a difference… in the future. But why can’t we make a difference in the present as well. Why can’t we make a difference… right now? There is something bigger in this world than our own cushy bubble of friends and family. There are people out there right now who could use all the help that they can get. And so I encourage you, I encourage you all, to make a decision. A decision to stay put, or a decision to make a difference. The choice is yours.

“Be the change you wish to see in this world” – Mahatma Gandhi

More About Michael Chen:

I am a rising junior at Newark Charter High School. I enjoy reading books and spending time with my friends, but I also love helping others. This summer I worked as an Operations Specialist for Shortlidge Boys and Girls Club this summer, helping the Summer Collab with supply systems, artifact grading, and data collection.


“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” – Mattie Stepanek, American Poet.



When I walked into the Shortlidge Boys & Girls Club today, the only word that came to mind was “unity.” There was laughter. There was camaraderie and fun. There was a effortless synergy in the camp – a seamless system that operated from mutual understanding, respect, and friendship.

The SLC Shortlidge team includes Operations Specialist Michael Chen, a rising junior at Newark Charter High School, Instructional Coach Casey Krouse, a third grade teacher at Family Foundations Academy, Instructional Coach Laura Knappenberger, a third grade teacher at Gateway Lab School, and Curriculum Director Anthony Bonaddio, a Student Support Specialist.

From the very beginning of the summer, the leader of the team, Bonaddio, made sure everyone felt welcomed. Before curriculum started, he met with everyone to discuss their personal goals for this summer. They then, as team members do, listened to his. Knappenberger testified to the fact that there wasn’t a long acclimation period because their personalities mixed and blended naturally well and quickly.

There was no need for formal team building. “The best way to explain it would be that we formed organically. We understood quickly that we had to jump into the fire and expect a lot of on the fly adjusting,” says Bonaddio, “we know that there is no such thing as ‘picture perfect’ and instead strive to produce the best product we can.”

The Shortlidge team, as is expected at any camp, was met with many obstacles. Scheduling, timing, understaffing, inconsistency, supplies…all daily struggles. Yet, I could tell by their dynamic that there was never a moment of discouragement or doubt. They problem solved together, going outside of their job descriptions to help one another. Whenever an issue arose, they always asked each other for advice – in the belief that everyone’s input is valuable, regardless of age or background.

This free-form, accepting mindset is what has made Shortlidge so successful. Each member of the team is pushing each other to be better. “Stepping out of our comfort zone is what this summer is all about,” says Knappenberger, “in order to handle situations to the best of our abilities we must make this space our own and always, always, improve.”

As I saw the team interact and work together, it was apparent that even on the most stressful of days, they had fun. They clearly enjoy being around each other and exercised their ability to speak freely. This comfort level has spread to the rest of the B&G staff. Each member of the SLC team has sat down multiple times with all of the counselors, to check in and simply talk. “It doesn’t feel like the SLC team and the B&G Club team are separate…we are connected – we are all in this together,” says Chen.


These teams have worked together to utilize the resources they have been provided, teach the curriculum with fidelity, and turn this summer experience into one the kids will always remember. During capture the flag last week, the counselors tailored the lesson so they could play outside on a larger scale. They knew what would keep the kids engaged, and this is the sort of spirit they inject into everything they do.

“This experience has allowed me to mature,” says Chen, “I was used to being the leader at school or at home, but now I am part of a team. Relying on other people has taught me that you can’t do everything by yourself and that it is more than okay to ask for help.”

Shortlidge has truly taken the spirit of collaboration to heart. They have learned how to maximize their potential as a team and execute a high-quality summer experience for our highest-need youth. This represents everything the SummerCollab stands for at it’s core. This is about teamwork – this is about collaboration – this is about unity and love.

“We are each other’s best resources, and in this building, we are each other’s best friends.” – Bonaddio

City Upon a Hill(top)

Over the course of the past seven weeks, I have learned a lot about what privilege means and represents. Growing up in the suburbs of Wilmington, I had seldom traveled to the inner city, unless it was to take an Amtrak out of the city. The closest I had been to this community had been as a Middle School student at P.S. DuPont, shielded by brick walls and a busing system that quickly transported me to and from school, preventing any interaction I might have with the city or those who live here. My true sense of community required traveling – traveling far – to my home country of India, and I had only ever heard stories about the inner city the community in which I actually lived – the so-called Murdertown, USA.

From the first day on the job at Hilltop Lutheran Neighborhood Center, I quickly found that contrary to the stereotypes and statistics that define Wilmington’s highest-need youth, they are just as exuberant, boisterous, and fun-loving as any kid from Wilmington, America, or any part of the world. The experience of interacting with these children radically changed my outlook on the world and shaped my belief that we all can help make it a better place. I have a much deeper understanding of the African-American community, and I hope that in my professional career and in my personal life, I will be able to effectively connect and interact with people of all backgrounds.

Many of my friends from my neighborhood, my school, and North Wilmington are afraid and scared of the city of Wilmington – places like 6th Street. They stray away from these places they’re unfamiliar with because of articles they have read or stories they have heard. This lack of understanding – something of which I was a victim until very recently – is unfounded, and I hope I can encourage people to bridge this cultural gap.

This summer, my ability to make an impact in the Wilmington community has made all my hard work, struggles, and three parking tickets worthwhile. Seeing a camper’s face light up when he finally learns how to spell a difficult word – or beats me in 2k16 – has been one of the best experiences of my life.

Let’s not sugarcoat: these kids often do not have the opportunities or resources that their suburban counterparts take for granted – through no fault of their own. It is imperative that residents and citizens of Wilmington are more engaged with this often marginalized part of the community so that we can better understand one another. I know that as I enter the workforce, I will never forget what it means to give these kids the opportunity they deserve.

One of the best parts of my job was reading short picture books with campers – what we called Reading Intervention. Before each session, we had two students compete in a 5-word spelling bee. Seeing the gears turning in their heads when – after two or three sessions – they finally understood a suffix like “–tion” or “–ough” was exciting. It was truly a privilege to see them being challenged and motivated by their peers to learn and grow.

I spent 24 days at Hilltop, and seeing that I could be a part of the solution to reverse summer learning loss for so many kids was a paradigm-shifting realization. I could sit with a pair of campers two or three times a week for six weeks and help them read more efficiently or spell at a higher level, with nothing but some markers, a couple books, and a sheet of paper.


Often in education policy-making, officials are quick to assign blame or propose logistically and practically impossible plans to revamp poor quality inner-city school systems. While some of these plans may work, they are difficult to implement, cost millions of dollars, and take decades to show results. Here at SummerCollab, we worked with some of the most disadvantaged students and in just 24 days we were able to see tangible results that showed growth.

Often, those who only view these communities as prime spots for gerrymandering or pandering – depending on one’s political affiliation – forget that the crux of the community, any community, is the kids. The government wants to “overhaul” or “re-engineer” the system instead of working within the established infrastructure and producing growth on an individual basis.

As someone who did work within this infrastructure, I learned so much from these kids about the way they learn and the community that they call home – a place that I now can call my community as well. Many kids speak a different language at home and juggle their bilingualism masterfully when they are immersed in a different linguistic environment at camp. Others have dreams of being break dancers or zookeepers, NBA players or authors. Spectating from a distance and conflating the kids’ lack of opportunity for a lack of drive and motivation is perhaps the worst mistake anyone can make. It is a mistake I probably made – on a conscious or subconscious level – just three months ago. It is a mistake I will never make again.

John Winthrop, the famous leader of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, once said that America was destined to be a model for the rest of the world – a shining “City Upon a Hill” in his words. Some 350 odd years later, America is number one in the world in GDP, but it falls far behind in facets like opportunity equality and income distribution. There is no reason that both North Wilmington and the City of Wilmington cannot both shine. There is a microcosm of a City Upon a Hill(top) here on 6th Street. I hope that these kids get just as much opportunity to shine as the kid down the block.

More About Dhruv Mohnot:

Dhruv Mohnot is a rising senior at Concord High School. He worked as an Operations Specialist at Hilltop Lutheran Neighborhood Center this past summer, and thoroughly enjoyed working with the 100 or so kids there. He is passionate about economics and politics and hopes to major in finance or business.

Why “Good Enough” is Not Good Enough

While shopping at the outlets in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware I passed a woman and heard her say, ” I don’t expect to have nice things”. Right then and there SLC popped into my head. Improving summer learning is a great thing. Strengthening math and writing skills is essential. But we want to do more.  We want to set the bar higher. To change mindsets. To offer our campers more than “good enough” in order for them to be able to expect more in life.

Every child, regardless of background, has the ability to thrive at something. But if their life experience is limited to what they receive in school or summer camp, they may have no idea what other options are available for them to pursue. We aim to meet our campers where they are. To bring new experiences to them. To expose them to more.


Putting a child in a leotard and having them learn the basics of ballet may seem frivolous. Sure it is cute and fun, but isn’t it sort of pointless? No. It is far greater than teaching them first position and how to stand on their toes. It is showing them there are innumerable opportunities in life. It is exposing them to new things so they can find their thing.

If we only rehash what they have already been exposed to, what chance is there for the child who already can’t do those things? By offering new and exciting experiences, we offer hope. Every child is not going to succeed in academia, but that does not mean they cannot succeed! Can they build, dance, design, create? How will they know if they never have the opportunity to try?

SLC is looking to raise the bar. To do more than “good enough”. To provide opportunity and experiences in order to expand dreams and instill hope. To empower our students to expect more for themselves.

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” Michelangelo


By Kim Biasotto
More about Kim:

Kim Biasotto is a curriculum writer for Summer Learning Collaborative. She loves to write and teach and encourage people of every age to discover and reach their full potential.


“Learning to read is probably the most difficult and revolutionary thing to 

happen to the human brain.” – John Steinbeck


We couldn’t agree more.  

When I walked into both the Latin American Community Center and Hilltop Lutheran Neighborhood Center today, I saw this “revolutionary” process firsthand. Volunteers from Salesianum and Operations Specialists were working with children on data driven, individualized, and targeted activities tailored to teach them the fundamentals of reading.

At the entrance to The Latin American Community Center, Nancy Aragbaye, a Curriculum Director for The Summer Learning Collaborative, welcomes three new volunteers from Padua and Salesianum to the center.  She shows them special uno cards that they will play 1:1 with kids to help improve word recognition. This is but one of many strategies Nancy will employ over the course of several weeks this summer to provide data driven and targeted activities tailored to teach children the fundamentals of reading.

Nancy, who taught 5th and 6th grade through Teach For America, brings five years of experience working with countless children who barely knew how to recognize words, let alone read full sentences. Due to the immense and critical needs of her kids, Nancy struggled to provide her students with the fundamentals they needed, while still maintaining the rigor of her assigned school curriculum. This structure made it nearly impossible to provide the personalized interventions her students’ needed.  

The Summer Learning Collaborative provided her with a solution: a flexible environment that allows her to take a step back and teach kids the fundamentals in a fun and engaging way.

For several weeks, Nancy studied the trends in data collected by Let’s Go Learn, an online research-based diagnostic assessment of reading and math.  Her research unearthed a startling fact: the average third grader attending LACC’s summer program was scoring at the kindergarten level. This aligned with what Nancy had seen in her classroom experience, but – outside any red tape and in a flexible learning environment she was empowered to make a change.

“Now,” Aragbaye explains, “each day we pull struggling kids out of their general camp group. Volunteers work with the children to develop the specific topics they struggled with in the Let’s Go Learn assessment.”

According to a study done by RAND Corporation on personalized learning, “Achievement analyses find that personalized learning has a positive effects on student reading performance and that the lowest-performing students made substantial gains relative to their peers.” We are indeed seeing this firsthand at LACC in our students receiving individualized attention. Kids are reading through play and loving it. Through this targeted reading intervention, our kids are fully realizing that they matter and their progress matters.

This summer, Hilltop Lutheran Neighborhood Center also instituted their own innovative reading program. Melany Justice, a Curriculum Director for The Summer Learning Collaborative, created the program in collaboration with her professors at Johns Hopkins, and Maryann Ireland, a Hilltop academic volunteer. They developed a language test to accompany the data from Let’s Go Learn to gather a comprehensive set of data for each child. This test focused on comprehension and spelling, two very important indicators that Melany analyzed. Using this information, she developed a program that aims to help children learn to read, while also form the beginning fundamentals of writing.

Every day Hilltop’s Operations Specialists, Maryan and Dhruv, pull out individual campers, chosen based on their assessment results. Each intervention session begins with a game, for example spelling practice formatting much like a spelling bee, all of which are incorporated with vocabulary practice focused on sight-word recognition and phonics.

“The very special thing about this program is that each lesson is tailored specifically for each child” explains Melany. “The level of difficulty is customized to fall in their “instructional” level. This targeted reading intervention approach maximizes their ability to learn by avoiding the “basic” and “frustration” levels, which simply means they have some mastery but are still challenged.”
The child then proceeds to read aloud and answer comprehension questions. Melany has incorporated both explicit and implicit learning into her lessons, and the children are encouraged to form and express opinions about the stories. At the end of the lesson, Dhruv and Maryam update progress charts that make sure each following session specifically targets skills to be reviewed and new material to be learned based on the child’s progress and learning techniques.

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I was fortunate enough to observe these sessions, and it was uplifting to hear the children talk about reading. Ramaya wanted to take the books home to read, Washim’s favorite book is “A Cat in the Hat,” and Devon shyly, yet proudly, told me she could now read on her own. Dhruv, the Operation Specialist, who works with these kids individually for hours, said, “easily the most rewarding thing I do every day is working with the kids and seeing them smile when they learn something new or when we read a book together.”

Although this is only the third week of both programs, the gains are apparent – in the way that children’s faces light up when recognizing a new word, the way volunteers and OS’s interact with our highest-need youth, and the way change has inspired the LACC and Hilltop communities.

Throughout the school year children are herded in large class sizes through Common Core Standards, whether or not they know the basic foundations of the content they are meant to master.  Unfortunately this means that many of our city’s highest need kids will never become literate:  they will never master the basic skills that underpin future success.  The Collaborative’s mission is to leverage summer – and in particular data and strong teams within community agencies – to respond to the individual needs of children.  

“Our school system is often a blunt force tool to children who require individual attention and support, ”explains Catherine Lindroth, Founder and Executive Director of SummerCollab.  “Summer offers us a unique opportunity to help non readers build a strong foundation for literacy; we can ensure our highest need children go back to school as stronger readers, with a strengthened belief in their personal power.”

“Change is the theme,” says Rahul Sabbaraya, a SummerCollab Operations Specialist at Walnut Street YMCA.  “These programs have the potential to drive change in “revolutionary” ways.”

Fraim Boys & Girls Club Case Study

Summer Collab at Fraim

To an outsider, it may appear that I was just taking the Operations Specialist position to make my college resume standout; however, the Summer Learning Collaborative has convinced me that it’s not about what you see on paper, it’s about developing meaningful life experiences.

As I walked down South Union Street, I was not exactly sure what to expect, but pictured the new age of early childhood education ready to expand young minds and pave new paths for their futures. I found even more than that. I found the Clarence Fraim Boys and Girls Club of Delaware- a community of students, peers, and educators willing to take the time to educate themselves and their peers both in and out of the curriculum.

The staff at Fraim is comprised of college level counselors, seasoned veterans, a curriculum director from Cleveland, Instructional Coaches from around the city, a Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year award recipient turned Operation Specialist, and yours truly – a guppy from the great state of New Jersey willing to give it a shot. We all “clicked” right away, and before long were cracking jokes, laughing, and enjoying our important work together

Prior to the Collaborative, students were going through the generic summer camp programs – a rousing game of foursquare here, the ever-exciting student free time there. This summer marks the first year that that the Collaborative has made its mark on the students of Fraim, and it’s a year to remember.

From student-assembled pulleys to educational scavenger hunts, the innovative curriculum has created an a riveting, educational, and entertaining experience that both thrives in the memory of the kids and the counselors that teach it. Kady, the Curriculum Director at Fraim said, “Definitely Week one was a little difficult because inserting structure into summer will naturally make kids feel skeptical but the more they got to touch and build and feel, they quickly became excited.”

Soon, I could hear the children talking about the activities in the hallways. They were working together, discussing the material, and thinking outside of the box. These children are now spending their time with purpose and joy. This is the first step in the goal of changing the way people see the potential in inner city kids.

By harnessing the capacity of the human spirit, these children are beginning to believe in themselves, and who better to convince the world of their potential than themselves?  

Just as I’ve seen this progress every day with our campers, it has been extraordinary to see this in myself: This summer, The Collaborative allowed me personally to connect with people that I would never really find in my social circle. Whether it’s Kady Taylor and Brittany Jeter, both teachers from Kuumba Academy Charter school and my Curriculum Director and Instructional Coach respectively, Harry Hundermark, another Instructional Coach whose wicked tattoos and smooth jazz tell his story within one day of meeting him, or even Justin Coleman, a very energetic 1st grader who can only be explained as a “busy-body,” the Collaborative brings so many people together, as the name suggests.

Coming from the New Jersey public school system, I really did not know what to expect of Delaware. Having experienced many vibrant personalities, I can conclude that those who care about their students’ education make a difference that no amount of data, statistics, or reports can show. The teachers here are filling their students with confidence, character, and knowledge, which allows them to progress both as a person and as a student.


The impact of the Collaborative affects not only the campers, but also the participants. While Room Specialist Andrea is improving her skills as a teacher, campers Justin and David are off doing collab curriculum. They are having a blast creating their dens for their beluga whales, all the while learning what a beluga whale is, where it lives, and what it eats. In the background, Tracy is observing Andrea and her co-counselor Wanda and gaining important insights. These insights will be used later to improve the skills of Justin, David, Andrea, Wanda, Tracy, and even back to me where I write it up in my reports to get back to the Collaborative. We all grow together, very much in the spirit of collaboration.

I’m going to insert a famous movie reference that will sum up the effect of the Summer Learning Collaborative on the Clarence Fraim Boys and Girls Club. Picture the Lion King, Rafiki represents the leaders of the Collaborative, while Simba is all the goodness that curriculum culminates to be. Now no one is killed and there is no evil brother in this version, but once Simba grows up, as the the Collaborative does with Fraim, the effects will become even more meaningful in future years. Those cheetah cubs that are our K-1st group will become full grown knowledge hunters. While our aptly named ‘Green Machine’, made up of 2nd-3rd graders, will function with efficiency not even known to them.

To really understand the effect of the Collaborative, I need to personalize what ‘SLC’ means in terms of Fraim. Sustainable, Lively Community. In short, the culmination of innovation, initiative, and care between the Summer Learning Collaborative and the Clarence Fraim Boys and Girls Club has created an alliance that will continue on for years to come.


By Nick Piro
More about Nick

Nick Piro is a rising senior at Salesianum School. This summer he is an Operations Specialist for the Summer Learning Collaborative at Fraim Boys and Girls Camp. His role is to order and assembly develop and execute a system for supply distribution and collection. He also distributes, collects and inputs data related to lesson execution and success.

Lions and Tigers and Bears…Oh My!


When a child stays at camp longer to work on a project, he is engaged in the project. And when a child tells her parent excitedly about the activities at camp, she is having a memorable experience. And when these children plan, develop, and execute a product, they are learning life skills.

These elements are what sets an academic curriculum that instructs apart from an academic curriculum that inspires, excites, and engages. SLC’s Circus curriculum truly encapsulates all of these goals. Last week, “Circus” was implemented at the YMCA on Walnut Street and Shortlidge Academy, and it was incredible to hear how the experience impacted their communities.

About 80% of the campers had never been to a circus, so, for many, this was a completely new experience. Children were grouped into teams and given ownership over what they wanted to perform, how they wanted to perform, and how they wanted to structure their practices. The result was a free-form thinking space that gave our campers the opportunity to be innovative – they created blueprints of how to decorate the gym, pricing charts for the concession stand, and a script for the skits.

The campers worked on their projects throughout the week, and the theme culminated with a “Circus Day.” The teams excitedly set their plans in motion. They decorated the gym, hung posters on the walls, blew up balloons and beach balls, and performed on a stage framed by a parachute doubled as a backdrop. The counselors rallied around student interest in the curriculum, jumping into circus activities with the kids. Campers enjoyed experiences of their own design: face-painting, concession stands, music, popcorn, games and prizes.

“This curriculum was excellent because it got the kids in front of crowds allowing them to perform something they got to work with all week,” explained Shandy Perez, The Collaborative’s Curriculum Director at Walnut Street YMCA. “They had the courage to say – I’m going to perform – I’m going to come up here and be the lion or the juggler or whatever I want to be.”

One such performer, Brysheem, sang “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa, electrifying the audience with his extraordinary talent. He captured all of us – the audience, counselors and campers alike- with his soulful, honest, and clear voice.

In this moment, the bigger picture of The Collaborative also pierced through:  this is what our eight months of work leading up to summer was all about.  Beyond Curriculum Directors and Instructional Coaches, Curriculum and supply distribution, this was about kids bursting with potential.  Brysheem was listened to and appreciated and applauded for something he was good at. This is a moment that many take for granted but that countless inner city communities never get to experience. This is change.


In the wise words of Wiz Khalifa (beautifully sang by Brysheem), we “had to switch it up, look at things different, see the bigger picture,” and this is exactly what the Summer Collaborative has done through their nuanced approach to partnership with inner city community centers.  The kids at The YMCA and Shortlidge this week made a circus.  But we know they made much more than that – they were given the safe space to create, make mistakes, break down, and build up again – one of the most valuable tools in life.

Exploring EXPLO

When you walk into the Explo office in Norwood, MA, the open office concept and the numerous dogs wandering about gives it a welcoming feel.  However, I had no idea what to expect from the two days of conferences and seminars with their senior staff.  Now back in Delaware – in the daily grind of my position as School Site Director – I am just so grateful for my time spent in Boston with The SLC and EXPLO.  

Working so closely with leaders from other Wilmington area community organizations was eye opening.  It was extremely helpful to have engaging conversations with colleagues from different organizations about issues that we all manage everyday: organizational structure, scheduling, and the logistics of moving large numbers of kids while allowing for choice and ambitious academic outcomes.

One on one consulting with Explo’s senior staff was so helpful.  Their leaders were insightful and always willing to delve into camp specific issues while helping us keep the bigger picture and a bigger vision of what’s possible in mind.  Elliot’s presentation on project management provided very tangible solutions to issue that we all face daily. Finding the balance between work and home is critical to keeping your sanity. The folks at Explo not only value, but encourage their employees to find and maintain that balance.

The session I found most enlightening was the one on feedback.  Like most of us, conflict is one of the most difficult things I deal with in my professional life. Setting a tone and culture of positive feedback makes camp and other organizations a more pleasant and rewarding place to work. Having the courage to accept the feedback as a gift, and acknowledging that we are all on the path to improvement really struck a chord with me. I hope to become better at giving and receiving feedback based on the things I learned from David.

The journey we took to Boston to meet with the fine folks at Explo was full of fun, learning and new skills that can be carried over into my day-to-day professional life.  It’s rare that someone in my position gets the opportunity to have direct access to people who are not only so giving and kind but are full of extensive professional knowledge on summer camps. I consider myself lucky to have been able to be a part of the trip.

With much thanks,

Andrew Quill