For The Summer Learning Collaborative—a Wilmington-based non-profit—summer doesn’t start on June 21st. Summer starts months and months before, as SummerCollab prepares to work with and serve thousands of campers in the city of Wilmington. While many speak of “a lack of productive opportunities” (Johnson, 2016) for students during the summer months, SummerCollab affects real change on the ground, as it provides world class summer programming to the most underserved children in Delaware.
The SummerCollab Model
SummerCollab hires teachers and top high school students to work in community-based agencies in roles that optimize their expertise and provide them with leadership growth in the summertime. SummerCollab has enlisted over 60 teachers and 30 top high school students who are now working in summer programs across the state. Because of SummerCollab, 200 camp counselors across its network were offered elite professional development for the first time through the “Talent RFP” process. The SummerCollab support team placed at each Member Camp start working in late fall, providing planning, training, and system support as camps gear up for the summer launch.
While leadership teams and student enrollment numbers may vary vastly across SummerCollab’s network, all camps are unified in a shared mission to ensure all students have extraordinary summer opportunities in their backyard. In pursuit of this mission, camps all reflect on their progress on a shared data system (Let’s Go Learn), execute targeted reading intervention for campers, and carry out a highly creative, project based curriculum—serving a total of nearly 2000 campers this summer.
SummerCollab has developed an innovative curriculum that enriches the summer experience of nearly 1200 campers (grades K-5) across 10 camps in the city of Wilmington alone. SummerCollab is also working with eight expansion camps across the state of Delaware, in locations like Georgetown, Seaford, and Dagsboro. Its curriculum fosters deep experiential learning and engages the critical thinking and creativity of campers with activities like building roller coasters and making egg drop contraptions. When his idea for a roller coaster worked, one fifth grade camper—Derrick—exclaimed: “I feel so alive right now!”
Not only is the curriculum engaging and interactive, but it is also designed to avoid feeling like a classroom for students. For these low-income campers, SummerCollab curriculum represents the opportunity to catch up to their more privileged counterparts, allowing them to reverse the summer learning loss that accounts for two-thirds of the achievement gap. As Kuno Haimbodi—an Operations Specialist on site at Fraim Boys and Girls Club—said, “SummerCollab helps give every student the same opportunities they deserve.”
In 2016, 82% of the campers that the Collab worked with either achieved academic gains gained or did not fall behind during the summer months. Collab’s results are in stark contrast with the statistical average of low-income children losing three months of learning and going back to school far behind where they left off.
Additionally, in partnership with The United Way of Delaware, SummerCollab has pioneered a Reading Intervention program that targets campers who struggle the most with reading. Literacy specialists then work with these campers in small group settings to increase their reading skills. In the highest need communities, students can often be up to three or four years behind grade level, and targeted reading intervention helps build not only literacy skills that can be capitalized upon during the school year but also intrinsic motivators that will help campers sustain their own learning. As Inger—an Instructional Coach at Hilltop—put it, “[The campers] get that one-on-one more intimate educational experience in regard to comprehension, in regard to vocabulary. They get lost in the regular classroom setting, and they don’t want to speak up because they feel embarrassed.”
Middle School Programming—Tyler’s Camps
But SummerCollab’s work is not just concentrated within the K-5 grade segment—or in the city of Wilmington alone. As we move further into the middle of summer, our work with the critical middle-school age group heats up. Tyler’s Camps—which will open on July 10th in Wilmington, July 24th at Sussex Academy, and August 7th in Lewes—will serve 500 middle school students across the state.
Tyler’s Camps provide the state’s highest need youth with a world class summer experience. Last summer, campers were able to choose from exciting options that spanned far—from coding to animation—and wide—from ballet to wrestling. SummerCollab has partnered with organizations like Microsoft, The Boy Scouts, Longwood Gardens, Wilmington Ballet, and others in order to provide campers with committed instructors and extraordinary enrichment opportunities.
In short, SummerCollab is fostering a love of learning and inspiring the hearts and minds of campers across the state of Delaware. In fact, SummerCollab just won an Elite Summer Learning Award from the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA). Is there work to be done? Absolutely. But in Delaware, thanks to the joint efforts of school and community leaders, teachers and top students, thousands of low-income Delaware kids will have access to extraordinary summer learning opportunities. And the Collab is just getting started. #MakeSummerSmarter.