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On-Site Staff / Program Design, Development, and Quality

Highlights of a Summer Road Show


Every year, the Summer Matters campaign tours summer programs across the state from Glenn County down to San Bernardino and over to Fresno.

The programs, supported by local technical assistance providers, have been working intentionally to improve their quality for the past 4 years. What we’re seeing is a real testament to the ingenuity and determination of our field, and to the power of the cycle of quality improvement.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • At the Whittier City School District’s Jumpstart program, middle schoolers were reading The Hunger Games and doing activities related to its themes. In one room, children acted out scenes from the book, while another room made elaborate costumes and weapons from paper bags, bark, leaves, and string, and still, others played “blood rain,” a modified version of capture the flag.
  • At the East Bay Asian Youth Center in Oakland, we watched students inventing make-believe survival tools and marketing their new products to their peers as part of a unit on outdoor survival skills. At the end of each day, kids and staff gathered around a “camp fire” to debrief the lessons learned and place foot step along their nature “path to knowledge.”
  • In Fresno, the Central Unified School District’s CESA program centered on the novel, Gone, in which all the adults over age 15 suddenly disappear from a town. During our visit, the author was also visiting and met with kids in their classrooms to answer questions – about where the story idea came from, why the characters took different actions, upcoming novels, etc. His direct manner of speaking really got their attention. I heard a bunch of kids saying, “I’m definitely reading his next book!”
  • With THINK Together in Santa Ana, students, teachers and after school staff are getting a head start on learning and teaching strategies for the Common Core English Language Arts curriculum, and they are building more skills with fun, hands-on STEM projects.
  • The middle schoolers in Sacramento City Unified School District’s Summer of Service program were working in teams to do a whole range of service projects – from educating peers about bullying to teaching basketball to younger kids. The gardening class was painting tables in the school’s courtyard with different life cycle themes and creating lesson plans related to each table to be used during the school year.
  • Throughout our visits, we saw children collaborating, negotiating, laughing, leading and following, using their hands, dancing, discussing, creating, and thinking – all on topic because the topics were good.

Not only did we see great programming, we’re also seeing consistent and positive improvements year-to-year.

  • More and more line staff are understanding that having their teaching observed is a great way to build skills, not a potential reprimand or compliance report.
  • More and more managers are prioritizing prep time and training for their staff to make sure they have the support they need to do a great job.
  • Being intentional is all the rage – from thinking about what you want kids to get out of an activity, to prepping partners about your learning goals, to setting up specific steps for your program to get better, summer leaders are making sure they know where they want to go before they start moving.
  • Superintendents, principals, and credentialed teachers are buying into summer learning as the best way to get their students engaged and excited about learning.

The last summer visit happened on Friday. Summer programs are closing their doors for a few much-needed weeks of downtime before the school year rush begins.

While they may be exhausted right now, we know summer staff will come back to their school-day and after-school jobs stronger, more confident and energized by their summer creativity and success.

From the Summer Matters campaign, I offer a hearty congratulations for another, even better summer. Thanks for another great road show!

This summer I’ve been eating my breakfast on the road.

Author Profile: @katiebrackenridge

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