By Stephanie Kim
The Norwalk Hour
NORWALK — For the past two years, a group of summer learning providers and community members have been meeting every month to discuss ways the city can collectively tackle summer learning loss — or avoid the “summer slide.”
This group came together through the city’s coalition of civic leaders, educators and organizations known as Norwalk ACTS. Named TEAM Summer, the group has the mission of not just closing the learning gap but also lessening the opportunity gap among socioeconomically disadvantaged children in the summertime.
Of the 1,300 district students TEAM Summer surveyed last year, about 56 percent did not engage in a summer learning program. Other data points reveal a lack of middle school summer learning activities and the large issue of transportation to and from activities, said Kate Ritter, lead of TEAM Summer and associate director of strategy and operations at Norwalk ACTS.
“Instead of making the conversation around summer slide and closing the gap, it’s also about how summertime is an opportunity to provide more experiences for kids and that summer is a time for increased strength, so to speak, so that kids can do things differently, learn differently,” Ritter said.
One way TEAM Summer is looking to close that opportunity gap is by providing an online directory of different summer learning programs available across the city. This year’s portal is now online, with more than 60 programs listed in academics, arts and culture, enrichment, sports and STEM — regardless of whether or not the provider is a member of the Summer TEAM initiative.
Paula Palermo, the data director of Norwalk ACTS, developed the portal last year and has also led the data collection on summer learning in Norwalk since TEAM Summer started in 2017.
Both are the first of their kinds in the city that Palermo are aware of.
“I think that TEAM Summer is a great example of how we bring the community together. We convene the community to do better because none of the individual programs have the capacity to solve the bigger issues by themselves,” she said. “But when you get 30 people around the table all looking to be successful to provide good programming for children, you come up with a lot better solutions.”
Amy Jefferies, manager of youth development at Family & Children’s Agency’s ASPIRE program, has seen the benefit of being a part of TEAM Summer firsthand and Norwalk ACTS since its beginning.
Every summer, the Norwalk Library Association comes to the ASPIRE program to talk about its reading summer program to children, which boosts their motivation to read, she said.
“Norwalk ACTS has been able to open a lot of these people and programs in the community to our students,” Jefferies said. “I think what shifted is that it’s no longer camp, it is a summer program that we run as a cross-curriculum. Embedded in everything we do is academic learning.”
TEAM Summer now has 34 members and has an average of 30 people who come to monthly meetings.
To view the Norwalk ACTS 2018 TEAM Summer Program Portal, visit https://www.norwalkacts.org/teamsummer/2018-portal/.
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