Summer should be a time for fun and also a time for continued growth and development. For children without the advantages of exciting and challenging organized activities - such as traditional summer camps or family trips or organized sports - the summer months can actually be a time of developmental loss.
In September 2007 the American Savings Foundation and the New Britain Youth Network sponsored a statewide event featuring Dr. Beth Miller who presented her research on "summer learning loss" (see her report -- The Learning Season) which showed
"...that well designed, intentional summer programs can minimize loss of basic skills. Programs can provide the enriching experiences that lead to long-term increases in school attainment and achievement by building resiliency, initiative, and engagement in learning."
The need for quality summer programs in New Britain was clear to youth programs as well as the school system. Three years ago the NBYN partnered with Smalley Academy Elementary School to develop and implement an enrichment program to complement its summer school curriculum for 4-5th graders who were below proficient in reading and needed intervention. A funding partnership was formed that included the United Way of Central and Northeastern CT, the Community Chest of Greater New Britain, and the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, and the American Savings Foundation to support a pilot program.
NBYN agencies participating in the program included the New Britain Youth Theater, the YWCA of New Britain, Urban Oaks Organic Farm, Girl Scouts of Connecticut, and the Parks & Recreation Department of New Britain. Together with Smalley Academy teachers, they developed literacy-based enrichment activities and provided them for the students in the afternoons at the school, complimenting the classroom work done in the mornings. The results were excellent, with students showing significant improvements in their reading and math scores. The program was expanded to serve more children in 2012. As a result of the experience at Smalley Academy in 2011 and 2012, the School District has partnered with the NBYN to redesign summer school for all the elementary schools in the city.
In the summer of 2013 the NBYN and the School District plans to expand the program to include grades 1-3 at Smalley Academy, and implement a new pilot program at Roosevelt Middle School.
These programs are proving that summer learning loss is not inevitable. The American Savings Foundation is committed to working with the School District and the NBYN to identify and help support programs that can make a difference in this important arena of youth development work that is increasingly recognized as critical by educators and other experts in the field.