It is critical that a child’s education doesn’t stop when the summer begins. All youth experience learning loss when they don’t participate in educational activities throughout the summer. Keeping their minds stimulated will make certain that they will lose less information with they return to school the following fall. Learn more about summer learning and Summer Learning Day.
- Most children — particularly children at high risk of obesity — gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school during summer break. Read more.
- National Summer Learning Association (NSLA)
- Summer Youth Program Fund – Indianapolis
- Education World: 25 Activities to Keep Kids’ Brains Active in Summer
- Summer Learning Activities and Skill-Builders – FamilyEducation.com
- The MCCOY Learning Network: Training & Networking for Youth Development Professionals
- MCCOY’s Youth Activity Directory
Blog and Shows
Youth Champion: Dr. Judy Bardonner, Marian University – Summer Learning Institute
- Why did you want to go into this line of work?
I’m a career teacher. I taught at IPS and Lawrence Township High School. I was an English teacher at the high school level and a special education teacher at the middle and high school level. Because I worked with kids who had learning challenges, I have always looked for research that would show how to help all kids learn. When I retired from teaching I began working at Marian University. Based on research and personal experience I knew that summer was the best time for students to catch up on their skills. During the school year kids have to follow along with the curriculum – if they fall behind it’s hard to get back on track. My other concern came about as I was finishing my career at Lawrence Central High School. I always noticed there were no people of color among the top 25 graduating students. However there were a number of children of color in the special education classes. The kids in these classes weren’t dumb, but they had different learning styles and didn’t have the same opportunities as those who were more privileged. There are two quotes that have guided my practice: the dedication from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings which is dedicated to her son and “all the strong black birds of promise who defy the odds and gods and sing their songs” and Zechariah 4:6b, “’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.”
- What was your first day on the job like?
The first summer, I employed and trained three Indiana Latino Institute interns to help me play learning games with campers. We worked with 10 summer programs to see how they were operated. I didn’t want to change summer programs, but to bring resources and integrate learning activities into theirs. After spending a summer in the field, I knew what I wanted to include in the curriculum for this program. After my summer in the field, I created the Summer Learning Institute. I received funding to pay university students to teach. I sent the student teachers out in teams along with master teachers – teachers who had success teaching and could mentor the university students. The master and student teachers would go out for two hours in either the morning or afternoon and play learning games with kids. From the beginning we have done pre- and post-testing to see if our teaching is making a difference. The pre- and post-assessments help us know if we’re improving student achievement. We can change methods if needed. In more recent years, Carol Dweck’s research on children’s perseverance, resilience, and motivation has been incorporated into the program. The Summer Learning Institute has also provided professional development based on Luria’s intelligence theory and cognitive skills from research in psychology to teach ways to strengthen learning skills.
- What is most rewarding about your job?
What is most rewarding is when kids who are studying math realize they like or understand math. I know that I’m sending them back to school on grade level. I know I’m helping teachers because they want kids to do well and prepping kids for learning. My student teachers report back to me that after a summer of working as an SLI teacher student teaching isn’t as bad as they thought it would be. These student teachers are more knowledgeable about how to help kids be successful learners.
- What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of this job is not knowing if I’m going to be funded until late April. It’s difficult to recruit university students and mentor teachers that close to the summer. It would be nice to get two year funding. A lot of the student teachers begin with the program in their junior year and work for two years then graduate. If we could get two year funding it would allow for long term planning. Also a lot of the organizations we work with want us to work with their kids during the vacation breaks within the school year. With two year funding we could provide the program during year and give university students more teaching opportunities and kids more consistent learning during breaks. Research shows learning is cumulative and many of programs have the same kids in summer and year round. As kids improve over the years it’d be a benefit. I see this as a feeder program into higher verbal/math classes much like the Tabernacle Presbyterian program is a feeder program for sports. We need feeder programs for math and reading. Math is the gatekeeper for university success and getting into law and medical school. Reading is important but math determines how successful you’ll be in college. If you want kids in STEM and medical school kids need to be prepared. And it takes time to learn and become well versed in the basics and understand decimals and place values. University students learn as much or more from summer programs as the youth. The staff in summer programs know how to work with kids and my students teachers learn how to work with the kids by working with the staff. University teaching programs don’t cover that. You can teach it in a university classroom but working with kids in their classroom is successful is learning. Lynn Rogers at Concord said ‘We’re not teachers’ but they are because they teach kids how to be good citizens, to be kind, to get along and other social skills, etc.
- How has MCCOY helped your organization succeeded or grow?
In the beginning years, in addition to sending university students to teach in summer programs, training workshops were held for non-profit organizations and their staff. Marian University provided training workshops each month offering professional development in math, science, and language arts. MCCOY has now taken over the professional development. John Brandon has been a champion of SLI. He has provided MCCOY resources to fund us. John has introduced me and brought me into meetings where I’ve been able to network with others. MCCOY has set up meetings where I’ve been able to meet people from other universities who have the same interests- working to develop summer programs.
- Where do you see yourself and your organization in five years?
I hope to be able tell our story to a wider audience. For instance IUPUI has been using the same model for past two summers and has been successful. I’m hoping other universities might be willing to join and work to stop summer learning loss. Also our teachers recently received training from Wisdom Tools. They trained SLI teachers in how to do hands on NASA science activities. Once SLI teachers enter the classroom they will be able to use these activities when teaching full-time.