Youth Program

Subcategories from this category: Green
The Wallace Foundation Summer Learning Demonstration: Boston Public Schools/Boston After School and Beyond

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. 

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One of the most rewarding experiences for me as an environmental educator this summer was working with the Instructors in Training (IITs).  At Courageous, the IITs are high school students who have attended the summer youth program for many years or are interested in becoming a sailing instructor.

The environmental aspect of the IIT program has two main components: learning more about environmental science and learning how to teach environmental science.  Each week, on Tuesday afternoons, I facilitated a mini-lecture on the week’s topic (mammals, crustaceans, sharks, etc), then the IITs participated in hands-on activities or experiments to further understand the subject.  These lessons were appropriate for high school level learners, using proper vocabulary and themes.  However, the hands-on activities were always fun and allowed the IITs the chance to immerse themselves in the learning in a fully enjoyable way.

On Thursday afternoons, the IITs and I worked on how to teach environmental topics to their future sailing students. These lessons often involved half of the group of IITs pretending to be beginning sailing students and the other half of the IITs facilitating an environmental activity for them.  Sometimes the lessons focused more on how to talk to students about nature and the outdoors while sailing.

I had a great time working with the IITs this summer.  Their energy and willingness to learn were a true inspiration.  I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to lead future instructors in becoming more environmentally aware and  more eager to teach environmental education to their students.

in Green