Preventing Summer Slide, Preparing for the Future: A Look at Summer Learning in Missouri

Across Missouri, schools are out, but kids still need a place to go and things to do. Many school districts, community-based organizations and faith-based organizations throughout the state are stepping up this summer to provide children with a space to be and families with peace of mind.

As part of National Summer Learning Week, we wanted to highlight the importance of summer learning programs in ensuring families’ access to child care, providing children with a safe and secure environment and expanding learning beyond the school year. Summer learning programs provide children with unique opportunities to learn and explore outside of the confines of the classroom. Though the focus leans more toward enrichment, programs incorporate educational opportunities to ensure that children continue learning and prevent summer learning loss through engagement and fun.

Spotlight on Hollister

Mark Cowsert shared how the Hollister School District leverages federal funding, local investment, and public-private partnerships to provide comprehensive college and career programming for Hollister students in the summer. Mark is the Assistant Director at the Missouri AfterSchool Network and the former Program Director of the Hollister Tiger Academy Program.

Tiger Academy-Hollister Schools (a 21st Century Community Learning Center) is a College and Career Readiness focused afterschool program serving students K-12 in Hollister, MO. With a Free/Reduced Lunch rate of over 70% district wide and a workforce that predominately works service related jobs in a tourism-based economy, Tiger Academy provides a safe, welcoming space for the children of working families in the Hollister District. Because of the demand for longer work days during the peak summer tourism season, Tiger Academy offers a much-needed service for families in need of quality care with full-day summer programming.

Tiger Academy’s philosophy for summer learning is consistent with its school year focus on college/career readiness; yet we believe it is our privilege to provide students with a true summer experience. For example, because we live in a tourism-based economy with many outdoor recreation options specifically with several lakes, we feel compelled to help our students learn the key principles of water safety while learning about jobs associated with our area. This includes a wonderful public-private partnership between the YMCA, City of Hollister Parks and Recreation Department and a local La Quinta Inn & Suites to give our students basic swim and water safety lessons. This partnership is a part of a substantial grant of over $8,000 from the City of Hollister Parks and Recreation Department to provide this and other summer learning opportunities.

In addition to those lessons, Tiger Academy will have a day at Table Rock Lake State Park in which students will learn about careers in the State Parks, US Army Corp of Engineers, Sea Tow Rescue and Missouri State Highway Patrol Water Division in which special guests will share various career opportunities and safety principles associated with area lakes.

Outside of the field trips and special guests, middle school students also engage in service learning with local non-profits and civil service outlets in which they learn about various careers while serving. These include the Shepherd of the Hills Humane Society, City of Hollister, Point Lookout Nursing Center, Jesus Was Homeless, and Table Rock State Park.

Tiger Academy is also a summer meals program outlet in which students (and community members) are provided a healthy breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack each day. In addition to the college/career readiness focus, the program promotes healthy lifestyle options through the partnership with the YMCA providing gymnastics and team sports basic skills several times during the summer. All of these opportunities plus options in reading, ELA and STEM during summer learning engage students in academic enrichment to keep summer slide at a minimum for those who participate.

Students at Tiger Academy

How can we support summer learning programs in Missouri?

  • Continue to watch for and respond to advocacy opportunities around federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which provides the largest stream of public funding for afterschool and summer learning programs in Missouri.
  • Connect with the Missouri AfterSchool Network as they represent the provider voice for afterschool and summer learning professionals and are a statewide network dedicated to policies that support these programs.
  • Visit the National Summer Learning Association website to read the research, find programs in your area, and stay connected with advocacy opportunities.

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