October 22 - 24, 2012 - Pittsburgh, PA
You've been hearing a lot these days how important it is for America to enhance its education system and bring skilled professionals into our workforce. I used to think that this would be a problem that universities would handle; offering better post-high school education that taught solid skills students could carry with them through their career.
However, my thought process has changed entirely as a result of photographing the National Summer Learning Association's conference at the Westin Convention Center Hotel this October. Having spent three days among the country's top educators and education advisors, I now understand how important it is to enhance and nurture our involvement in educating our young people throughout their educational careers, especially during the summer months when the "learning achievement gap" sets in to essentially delete part of the child's learning achievements from the previous school year.
The statistics are astounding. Research shows that most students lose two months of grade level equivalency in math computational skills during the summer months. Not to mention that students from low-income families lose more than two months of reading achievement.
Due to the intrigue of technology and the tendency for children to stay indoors and play video games all day, as well as access to any food in the house during that time - I'd say this statistic is probably pretty accurate. (Note: To be clear, I am not hating on gamers, but child gamers without good parents may never get off the couch.)
We must seize the opportunity to maximize the potential of summer as the perfect season for educational innovation that shows students, teachers, and the wider world all that is possible for our young people.
- Gary Huggins, Chief Executive Officer, National Summer Learning Association
Monday's Pre-Conference Training Institute encouraged the top minds at the conference to connect and share ideas for developing better summer programs for their respective areas of influence.
Attendees played engaging social activities to give them ideas for summer programming.
Wednesday's morning session began with an introduction from a 6-year-old girl to enforce the idea that children are our future.
Sandra M. Alberti, Director of Partnership Initiatives and Professional Development for Student Achievement Partners speaks about the development and importance of the Common Core State Standards.
Conference sessions filled the day with a multitude of refreshing ideas for summer learning.
An Awards Luncheon was held on Tuesday, honoring Excellence in Summer Learning. Among the winners were Ohio State LiFE Sports, United Way of Santa Barbara County's Fun in the Sun Initiative, and the GO Project of New York City.
A relaxing social Welcome Reception was held at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture on Tuesday evening.
An engaging ice breaker game designed to promote physical activity in the classroom in the "Healthy Summers: Strategies to Promote Nutrition, Fitness, and Fun!" session led by Katie Willse, Senior Director of Community Initiatives for the National Summer Learning Association.
Set up for the Campfire Spirit Luncheon on Wednesday.
The " 2012 Spirit Stick."
The Pittsburgh Public Schools' Summer Dreamers Academy Campers from the Marilyn G. Rabb Foundation's "Art Activism" program performed for conference attendees at the Campfire Spirit Luncheon on Wednesday.
Tables at the Campfire Spirit Luncheon competed fiercely for the 2012 Spirit Award.
Last year's spirit award honoree Grenae Dudley, President and CEO of The Youth Connection in Detroit, MI led the initiative to get attendees fired up.
Jennifer Hicks, the Technical Assistance Manager for Out of School Time at the Partnership for Children and Youth cheers wildly in an effort to have her table win the 2012 Spirit Award. Jennifer Hicks and her spirited table win the 2012 Spirit Award, and she becomes the new Spirit Captain. She will will reign over the Spirit Stick until next year's conference.
Coincidentally, Jennifer Hicks co-led the session "Building Community" right after the spirit luncheon with Katie Brackenridge, the Senior Director for Out of School Time Initiatives at the Partnership for Children and Youth in Oakland, CA. Pictured above are attendees having a blast in her high-energy session.
Participants designed a roller coaster in the "Zoom, Zoom, Zoom...Designing a Roller Coaster (Balls & Tracks) S.T.E.M" session late Wednesday afternoon.
Save the Date for next year's National Conference on Summer Learning in Orlando, Florida!