This year, the Courageous Summer Youth Program participated in the Summer Learning Project (SLP) for the second year. This program is part of a national study to help reduce summer learning loss and Courageous is lucky to be part of a great network of other nonprofits in Boston. Organizations currently participating in SLP include: Tenacity, Thompson Island Outward Bound, Ponkapoag Outdoor Center, Hale Reservation, YMCA Boston, and Boys and Girls Club Boston.
SLP works with rising 4th graders from Boston Public Schools who are identified as being at risk for summer learning loss. Throughout the five-week program, students study at school in the morning, then join us at our sailing center in Charlestown or Jamaica Pond. While at the sailing center with us, students learn marine biology in an experiential, hands-on setting before heading out on the water on one of our Rhodes 19 sailboats. Through investigation based learning, the students explore a range of scientific topics including life cycles, aquatic ecosystems, and damage caused by environmental pollution and oil spills. Each lesson includes a literary component as well as an engaging activity that employs our surroundings as a living classroom.
The students that participate in our program have been selected because assessments identify them as being in a vulnerable population, academically. For many of our kids, factors including learning challenges, language barriers and behavioral control, significantly impede their access to comprehending and engaging with new material. Unfortunately, these students can eventually become very discouraged by repeated attempts to make progress. Often, they come to internalize this condition, and may even give up trying at all.
What is amazing about SLP is that students who, at the beginning of the summer specifically expressed sentiments such as "I am not good at learning", or "There is no way I will get this", have an opportunity to learn things differently: in a way that they can participate in, so that it makes sense. By the end of our two summers, so many students expressed that they had gained a lot from their experience. Facts and details retained about the curriculum were encouraging, but the most rewarding aspect gained from their participation was a new sense of pride.
Students tried new things and were given the opportunity to persevere, make mistakes safely, and figure out their own answers. The confidence that came from having successful learning moments is truly the most crucial and most powerful learning tool we have to offer these students. Our character development surveys measured students' growth, but bright smiles and declarations like "I have never been good at anything before!" indicate that something really special happens when a child realizes the immensity of their true capability. We are so lucky to witness these transformations. Hopefully, when students return to their new classrooms in the fall, they retain this sense of accomplishment, and approach their new year with the understanding that new challenges are simply opportunities to test their own strength and determination.
Courageous is thrilled to be part of SLP and appreciates the program’s success in being a national winner of The New York Life Excellence in Summer Learning Award for 2013.
This summer The Wallace Foundation also made a short video demonstrating the Summer Learning Project’s excellence and the student’s enthusiasm. Enjoy watching and join us in celebrating the success of SLP, the teachers who work so hard on the program throughout the summer, and all of the student participants.
This blog is coauthored by Sara Murphy, Summer Learning Project Senior Instructor and Rebecca Inver, Youth Program Outreach Coordinator