NATIONAL SUMMER LEARNING WEEK – July 12-16
Power Scholars Academy is an Achievement Gap Program Assisting Local Youth During the Summer Months
We are in the middle of National Summer Learning Week, a chance to reflect on how important and productive summer vacations can be for children. When we think of learning at the Y during the summer, Power Scholars Academy (PSA) certainly is one program that comes to mind.
We have long been proud of our partnership with national educational nonprofit BellXcel and the YMCA of the USA to implement Power Scholars Academy (PSA), a free-of-cost summer program that expands learning time to improve the academic achievements, self-confidence and life trajectories of elementary school students in Nashua who are performing below grade level. When the school year ends, children coming from high-poverty environments struggle not only with basic needs like healthy food and safe places to spend their days, but with losing precious time during the summer months to continue their learning. Research has shown the cumulative effect is a crisis in the making: by the fifth grade, summer learning loss can leave low-income students two-and-a-half to three years behind their peers.
“We’re off to a great start with our PSA learners,” said Program Director Sarah Sutherland. The program began on July 5 and runs through August 5. “It’s been both rewarding and challenging for the kids this summer. Children are excited to be back with their peers, but we are seeing a lot of learning loss with the children. Their starting point is at a lower point than they have experienced in other years. Our parents are so appreciative that there is no cost to this program. Many of our students are returning to the program and look forward to the mix of academics, fun, and many enrichment opportunities,” Sarah said.
This evidence-based summer program is a holistic summer learning experience that blends rigorous literacy and math instruction with hands-on enrichment, social emotional development, and community engagement. Fridays are reserved for field trips that have included trips to Boston’s Museum of Science, the New England Aquarium, Strawbery Banke Museum and local canoe trips down the Concord River in Concord. “I love learning about animals and trees on our canoe trips. I also love learning teamwork when canoeing together. You can’t paddle alone or you will go in a circle,’ said PSA student Kaylani, age 11 and entering 6th grade in the fall. When asked what she has learned, the shared “the volume of a rectangular prism!” She also enjoys reading time during PSA and said, “I can explore books and I love that!”
Field Trip Fridays has always been a big hit with the students and teachers. “Our area has so many opportunities to learn outside of the walls. Beaver Brook in Hollis is an example of learning about environmental conservation, right in our own backyard,” she said.
On a recent visit this week, students were making the best of a rainy afternoon enjoying a myriad of enrichment choices ranging from painting on canvases, pencil drawing, reading, journal writing and Go Fish! and UNO card playing. The students head to the Nashua Y on Mondays for swimming, also part of their planned enrichment activities.
In the summer of 2018, the program began at Amherst Street Elementary, Fairgrounds Elementary and Nashua High School South. BellXcel powered programs like PSA are designed to prevent summer learning loss, the greatest contributor to the achievement gap. In 2019, the program expanded to include over 400 Nashua community students from Grades 1-8. The pandemic summer of 2020 dictated that the program be held remotely, but this summer the students are back in person. We are hosting nearly 300 students in 13 classrooms, again at Amherst Street Elementary, Fairgrounds Elementary and Nashua High School South.
Summer learning goes well beyond the walls of a classroom. Make the most of summer by staying active as a family and practicing your moves! Take the Summer Matters Challenge during Summer Learning Week (July 12-16) and share what inspires you to learn during the summer!
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