Keeping Kids Off the Slide
PPL’s Summer Youth Programs Help Youth Keep School-Year Academic Gains
Kids at a PPL summer youth program walk to a nearby park to launch rockets in the name of science. They’ve crafted the rockets carefully out of soda bottles and pencils, ready to be propelled by the magical combination of baking soda and vinegar.
“It’s supposed to go way up in the air if we do it right,” third grader Sair said. “I hope mine works.”
Some rockets launch successfully. Others do not. No matter the outcome, the whole exercise helps serve a larger purpose at PPL’s summer youth programs: engage kids in educational activities during the long summer months when academic gains are typically lost.
Deemed the ‘summer slide,’ students of all walks of life can lose, on average, two months of math and reading skills while school is out for the summer. Kids that are actively learning during the summer months often keep the gains they’ve made over the school year, ending the slide. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that over 50% of the achievement gap between youth in lower- and higher-income households can be attributed to a lack of summer learning activities, making PPL’s programs vital to the success of our youth.
“Continuing our in-house Hear Me Read literacy program through the summer months helps give PPL youth the best chance to be ready for the school year,” said Eric Oines, PPL Associate Director of Youth Development. “Our focus is to avoid any summer slide. In summer 2013, 80% of PPL youth had no reduction in reading ability during the summer months.”
PPL’s summer youth programs will serve over 100 kids, teaching them about biology through gardening activities, electricity through making battery-powered circuits, writing by creating and performing their own plays, and art through various partnerships with local artists. Kids also practice reading with a tutor, a PPL Youth Development Program staple.
“Being with my tutor is my favorite part,” said Gali, a fifth grader, “because we read together and do fun stuff too.”
“I’ve had a lot of fun, especially reading,” said Nadine, a volunteer tutor. “There are lots of different activities, which is good for this group of kids.”
Learning opportunities are also created through non-academic enrichment activities like swimming lessons and zoo trips. A group of youth recently went to Loppet Foundation Adventure Camp, thanks to the Pohlad Family Foundation, and learned how to canoe, mountain bike, and roller ski, most for the first time.
“We went canoeing, had to paddle, and we got stuck!” said Sadaq, a fifth grader. “But we all got stuck, so it was still fun.”
The programs are helping kids stay academically sharp this summer and ready for school in the fall, as they have in the past. They also create the environment for further success.
“Kids who are reading regularly during the summer don’t have to play catch-up at the beginning of the school year,” noted Oines. “They are also developing a year-round connection to and love for reading as an activity, not just as something you do at school. If we are going to close the achievement gap, we need to instill in our youth a strong disposition toward lifelong learning that is driven from within.”
The purpose and hopes of the programs are not lost on the students. Seventh grader Kacena said, “It’s cool being here, and I like that they don’t want us to go down a grade level in reading.”
Want to Help Youth Succeed In School?
You can be a part of their success by volunteering with PPL’s afterschool programs this fall. We help hundreds of low-income students in school through engaging activities in a positive, laughter-filled environment. We also get results: last year 90% of youth program participants increased their reading fluency by one year or more.
For more on volunteering with PPL’s afterschool youth programs this fall, call Anna Preus at 612.455.5108 or visit www.ppl-inc.org/volunteer