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No Summer Slump for WA Kids in Summer Learning Programs

PHOTO: Members of the Green Plate Special club celebrate the addition of raised garden beds to their school's STEM program. Photo credit: Marissa Rousselle.
PHOTO: Members of the Green Plate Special club celebrate the addition of raised garden beds to their school's STEM program. Photo credit: Marissa Rousselle.
June 19, 2015

SEATTLE - Today is National Summer Learning Day, a nod to programs that prompt kids to sign up, show up and learn something new. Kids may not realize it, but summer programs also help ensure that their academic skills don't backslide by fall.

Summer is a new chance to introduce the STEM fields. At Washington Middle School in Seattle, gardening is an introduction to science, in the "Green Plate Special" club. Marissa Rousselle, Community Learning Center coordinator for Seattle Parks and Recreation, said the goal is for summer's enthusiasm to continue into the school year.

"If I can get a student enrolled in this gardening club that they really connect to - and maybe it's a student who told me they didn't like science, before - perhaps they'll come to school and pay more attention in their science class," Rousselle said, "because they realize the connection to this club that they actually really enjoy."

School's Out Washington provides STEM coaches and training for summer programs across the state.

Many people assume STEM is a natural interest for Asian students, but Peggy Kwok, Youth Development Program supervisor at the Chinese Information and Service Center, said that isn't always the case. At the center, Kwok said school is taken very seriously in the Asian cultures - and it can be hard to convince students and parents that summer learning can be fun.

"Most of them, they have the language barrier and maybe the literacy problem," she said. "We want to interest our immigrant children in STEM - particularly those students who come from low-literacy parents and also low-income families with limited resources."

She said another benefit for immigrant students is that summer programs aren't as structured and their work isn't being graded, which takes much of the pressure off of kids as they learn English and make new friends.

About one in four Washington families has a child in a summer learning program. That's lower than the national average of one in three, largely because there aren't enough programs in the state to meet the demand.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA