Each summer academy provides you with daily activity summaries, supplies lists, ordering information, and a draft letter to families. But putting on a great summer camp is more than having good activities. Whether you're new to hosting a summer camp or a veteran, we've outlined 5 things you'll want to get right from the start.
Check out our tips and resources, and join the conversation on our STEM Summer Playbook Facebook group to let us know if you have other tips we can learn from!
- Put Safety First
With vaccinations widely available for everyone aged 12 years and older, in-person camps should consider the most recent guidance from the CDC to protect all students and adults from COVID-19 risks. These precautions should be taken in addition to best practices for safety outlined in resources such as the Opportunity Project's standards.
Review the CDC Guidance for Operating Youth Camps (revised May 28, 2021)
Review the Opportunity Project's Out-of-School Time Standards, giving special attention to the Safe, Healthy, and Supportive Environment standards.
2. Huddle Up
Summer activities are a great way to ensure students are connecting with their community. Ensure the camp is designed in partnership from the beginning by inviting partners to collaborate on goal development, curriculum, and facilitating activities.
If you don't already have partners, take time to reach out and share your vision. There may be some opportunities to collaborate this summer or to begin building a relationship so you can accomplish your goals next year.
Review the Oklahoma State Department of Education's Ready Together brief, "How can schools and communities partner to provide summer learning experiences?"
3. Make a Winning Gameplan
According to EdRecovery's review of evidence-based research, there are 7 design principles of effective voluntary summer learning program: (1) Duration, (2) Class Size, (3) Attendance, (4) Enrichment Activities, (5) Academic Curriculum, (6) Academic Teachers, (7) Enrichment Teachers, and (8) Administration.
Review EdRecovery's report further detailing the eight evidence-based design principles. Even if not all principles are present this year, choose a couple to get right now and focus on the others next year.
Review the Oklahoma State Department of Education's Ready Together brief, "How can schools plan for effective summer learning experiences?"
4. Scout and Recruit Your Team
Research indicates that underserved students have less access to enrichment experiences. When inviting students to participate, prioritize underserved groups including students of color, students in poverty, students learning English and students with disabilities. Survey students to identify the enrichment activities they are most interested in and design summer learning around those interests. Be intentional about selecting and including activities that represent the interests of historically underserved students.
Review the Oklahoma State Department of Education's Ready Together brief, "How can summer enrichment experiences support student learning, well-being and success?"
Identify strategies to strengthen Social and Emotional Learning so all students feel welcomed.
5. Elevate Your Game
To reach all kids with high-quality STEM programming, activities must be designed to effectively address Learning Environment, Activity Engagement, STEM Knowledge and Practices, and Youth Development in STEM. These four dimensions come from the Dimensions of Success (DoS) Program Planning Tool developed by the Partnerships in Education and Resilience (PEAR). At TRSA, we strongly recommend that educators, directors, and caregivers use the DoS Program Planning Tool as they plan STEM activities for their summer programs.
BONUS. Instant Replay
If you're anything like us, you never want to stop improving. With this in mind, start by giving yourself some grace. It's been a long year and we all need a little break. Identify a few things you really want to get right this summer. Tell everyone, imagine what it looks like when it works, and get to work. For the things you'd like to get better next time, write them down, look for opportunities this year to improve, and build a plan to address them next time.
Establish a plan to jointly assess the quality of summer program offerings and show appreciation for program partners.
Help us improve too. While everything here is free to use, we hope you'll pay us back by completing an evaluation and sharing the camp evaluations (built into each camp) with your students.
For more of our favorite resources, check below:
While aspects of the guidance found at the following resources are included or linked to above, we want to ensure these resources are easily accessible as they represent some of the best and most helpful guidance we've come across.
Ready Together - This resource has been developed by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. The hub has resources that help set the tone and expectations for future growth. Explore the following pages for resources and strategies to help students regain disrupted learning, feel safe and succeed within their local school community and beyond at https://readytogether.sde.ok.gov.
Strategies to Solve Unfinished Learning: Expanded Learning Time - Get ideas for how to establish and sustain effective summer learning programs for math and literacy from research conducted by the RAND Corporation and shared in this review of effective expanded learning time from the Education Trust.
Summer Learning Planning Guide - The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching released a Summer Learning Planning Guide to assist education leaders in thinking through, planning for, and making the decisions that will ensure opportunities are successful for students, families, and teachers. The planning guide begins with an overview of recent research findings that highlight effective small group and summer learning practices. It then provides space for leaders to focus on some of the most important questions, decisions, and next steps to implement high-quality summer learning opportunities.
EdResearch for Recovery Summer Learning Program Design Principles - This brief is one in a series aimed at providing K-12 education decision-makers and advocates with an evidence base to ground discussions about how to best serve students during and following the novel coronavirus pandemic. Click here to learn more about the EdResearch for Recovery Project and view the set of COVID-19 response-and-recovery topic areas and practitioner-generated questions.