Attention all parents and families: sign up today and find live links at www.SummerLearningTacoma-Pierce.org for exciting summer programs, camps and learning opportunities for kids of all ages. This free, community-wide website offers over 220 programs from more than 80 organizations in the Tacoma-Pierce County area, where users can search by neighborhood, time of day, type of activity, age ranges, and whether the program is free or offers scholarships.
During the summer, kids can participate in hands-on activities, discover new passions, and improve on skills they may have struggled with during the school year. Learning in the summer helps students keep their minds and bodies active, and halts the “summer slide” of losing progress made during the school year in subjects like math and reading. By taking advantage of summer opportunities found on the website, students will be better prepared for their next grade level or college.
Last year, when the website launched for the first time, there were more than 26,000 searches made through this community resource. The team behind the website, the Tacoma Summer Learning Collaborative, helped grow by 59% the number of summer program slots filled by students at partner organizations in Tacoma, from 5,616 in 2013 to 8,919 in 2014.
This year, the Summer Learning team is focused on increasing summer learning participation in the Eastside and South Tacoma, and with the support of United Way, has grown the website to include partners in Bethel, Clover Park, and Franklin-Pierce school districts.
“Schools and teachers are already doing tremendous work for our students,” said Eric Wilson, President of the Foundation for Tacoma Students, which supports the cradle-to- career Graduate! Tacoma movement. “But it’s also the shared responsibility of the entire community to make sure every child thrives outside of the classroom too and summer learning is a big part of this picture of success.”
Research spanning 100 years has proven that students lose ground academically when they do not participate in summer programs that promote further learning. For low-income students who often have less access to summer learning resources, the problem is particularly acute: on average, they lose more than two months of reading achievement in the summer, which slows their progress toward third grade reading proficiency and widens the achievement gap with their middle-class peers. To combat this, the Tacoma Summer Learning team is working to increase access and build community awareness of quality summer learning programs that are free or low-cost through the website.
With the impact of summer learning loss alone, low-income students can fall 2.5 to 3 years behind their middle- and upper-income peers by the fifth grade. By fifth grade, student summer learning gains increase by 46.6 percent for students from high-income families and increased by 4.1 percent for students from middle-income families, but decreased by 1.9 percent for students from low-income families.
To secure a spot and get important discounts and scholarships, families should start planning for summer by visiting the website in May and June, before the end of the school year.