Experimenting with Middle Schoolers

Summer learning loss.

It's the new buzz term for kids’ brain hibernation over the summer vacation. It happens a little bit to all students, but most significantly to those who have few opportunities to exercise their minds.

What can be done?

Right now a test run is underway thanks to the collaborative attitudes and efforts of the YMCA 21st Century program, AB Tech, and United Way’s Middle School Success initiative. Fifty middle schoolers (rising 7th and 8th graders) are attending a free summer day camp on the campus of AB Tech. Here is what they get:

  • Exposure to a college campus
  • Mixing with youth from other parts of the County – Enka, Erwin and Owen students are taking classes together
  • Breakfast and Lunch
  • A choice of classes to take with lots of real life experiences
  • The opportunity to design some of their own sessions
  • And other unimagined, untold benefits!

What does it take make a summer program like this happen?

Just think about the practical matters of getting this off the ground: getting the kids there and back home, providing two meals through the public school system at a community college, permissions for kids to take trips to other places in the area, and scheduling the classroom space are significant.

Then, it’s critical to make sure the right staff people with the right training and attitude are there every day with the materials they need. And let’s not forget covering the costs without charging the families whose kids are attending! It costs about $125 per child per week to provide camp for 6 weeks, 6 hours a day/ 3 days a week. Funding for the camp comes from the Janirve Legacy Fund and United Way’s Community Fund.

What results are expected?

We anticipate that a majority of the youth will show no summer learning loss and for some, even improvement in reading and math scores.

With classes ranging from science and technology to food sustainability and youth leadership, and visits including Camp Lakey Gap, Biltmore House and Market Place Restaurant, these youth are going places, working together to solve problems, applying math and science knowledge in new ways, and enhancing their reading skills through art. In other words, keeping their creative minds active!

We believe this program is an example of what needs to be available to all middle school youth – all year round. Let’s see if we get the expected results and then find support to offer it to more youth next time.

Here is a video we just made about the Summer Discovery program:


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