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Summer Changes Everything

November 30, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

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.  

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I'll be honest - my first impression upon hearing the words "summer school" was pretty much, "Are they STILL trying to take away childhood from children, making them go to school year-round?" I was very fearful of that as a child, thinking falsely that my summers spent running around outside in the sunshine would forever be taken from me. Until I realized -  what if summer school was actually really fun and actually gave me a boost me when I went back to school that fall? Ultimately, the time spent during regular school months would then be easier.

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. 

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In addition, access to adequate nutrition, supervision, and engaging activities lacks for many children once school is out, leading to an increase in weight gain for these students in the summer (ultimately contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic).

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.)

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And so, the National Summer Learning Association has converted another skeptic on summer learning into a promoter on the issue. Having awesome summer programs that keep our nation's children (at ALL income levels) engaged, educated, eating right, and constantly achieving is a goal that is important to our future, our children's future, and the future of our planet. 

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

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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. 

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NSLA2012Conference 188 Attendees played engaging social activities to give them ideas for summer programming. 

NSLA2012Conference 309 Wednesday's morning session began with an introduction from a 6-year-old girl to enforce the idea that children are our future. 

NSLA2012Conference 354 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

NSLA2012Conference 372 NSLA2012Conference 444 Conference sessions filled the day with a multitude of refreshing ideas for summer learning. 

NSLA2012Conference 462 NSLA2012Conference 478 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

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NSLA2012Conference 799 A relaxing social Welcome Reception was held at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture on Tuesday evening. 

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On Wednesday morning, the program began with "Short Talks on Bright Ideas in Summer Learning." Kate Shatzkin, the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the National Summer Learning Association introduced the speakers. 
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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. 

NSLA2012Conference 1077 Set up for the Campfire Spirit Luncheon on Wednesday.

NSLA2012Conference 1108 The " 2012 Spirit Stick." 

NSLA2012Conference 1135 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. 

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NSLA2012Conference 1210 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. 

NSLA2012Conference 1229 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. NSLA2012Conference 1262 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.

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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. 

NSLA2012Conference 1290 NSLA2012Conference 1367 NSLA2012Conference 1412 NSLA2012Conference 1417 NSLA2012Conference 1421 NSLA2012Conference 1435 NSLA_Verticals_02 Participants designed a roller coaster in the "Zoom, Zoom, Zoom...Designing a Roller Coaster (Balls & Tracks) S.T.E.M" session late Wednesday afternoon. 

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Save the Date for next year's National Conference on Summer Learning in Orlando, Florida! 

© 2012 Bridgett Kay Photography, LLC


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