Paletas, Plants and Play: Summer Learning Day Highlights Programs for Kids

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About 400 children and parents are expected to drop by Woodard Park in San Antonio Saturday for food, festivities and Mexican popsicles known as paletas.

While there, they’ll see displays and information about available after-school programs from groups including the local Boys & Girls Clubs and the mentoring organization Big Brothers Big Sisters.

The event is one of many around the country celebrating National Summer Learning Day, which is designated this year as July 14, but is also celebrated during the week.

More than 900 events and programs are registered with the National Summer Learning Association, which organizes the celebration.

Tony Leverette is director of San Antonio’s Eastside Promise Neighborhood, which is sponsoring Paletas in the Park in San Antonio along with United Way. The goal is to connect parents with after-school programs so kids “stay engaged during the summer months so when they go back to school they don’t start behind.”

The “summer slide” is a big concern of the National Summer Learning Association and many others. The loss of academic skills during the summer contributes significantly to the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth, according to the organization. Higher-income youth are more likely to participate in enrichment activities during the summer.

[Related: Protecting the Planet: Summer Programs Are a Great Place to Start]

Kids also gain weight two to three times faster in the summer than during the school year, according to the National Summer Learning Association — a problem for youth who already tend toward obesity.

Steve Lucke, founder of the nonprofit Gardopia, will join Saturday’s event at Woodard Park. “We’ll be giving away 50 milk-crate gardens,” Lucke said.

The crates are lined with landscaping fabric and hold plants that parents and children can take home.

Children in the Eastside Promise Neighborhood in San Antonio, Texas, are invited to celebrate Summer Learning Day with games, food and free books in the city's Woodard Park. It's one of many events around the nation highlighting the value of summer learning activities for kids.

Eastside Promise Neighborhood

Children in the Eastside Promise Neighborhood in San Antonio are invited to celebrate Summer Learning Day with games, food and free books in the city's Woodard Park. It's one of many events around the nation highlighting the value of summer learning activities for kids.

“Our mission is to educate … about nutrition, exercise and gardening,” Lucke said.

Summer Learning Day is intended to show how well-run summer programs can aid children’s academic and overall well-being, keep them safe and healthy, and support working families.

The San Antonio event will also have a book giveaway.

“Parents may not understand the importance of reading to children,” Leverette said.

Libraries are taking a big role in Summer Learning Day. For example, children ages 4 to 9 are invited to the Henry County (Georgia) Public Library south of Atlanta for story time and lunch. Gruff the Dog, the mascot of the local sheriff’s office, will appear, and some school supplies will be given away.

At Mammoth Lakes Library in Mammoth Lakes, California, kids will build satellite replicas out of cardboard. The best design wins a prize.

Craig Public Library on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska has a summer reading program for both children and adults in the town of Craig, population 2,100. Kids have taken part in a ninja scavenger hunt to learn about the different sections of the library, looking for small ninja figures in different areas, said librarian Kimberly Baxter.

St. Stephens Community House in Columbus, Ohio, will hold a program called “A Summer Learning Day of Natural Wonder.” Kids will learn about geckos, snakes and gators — and why amphibians are necessary for the environment. St. Stephens serves approximately 300 young people ages 5 through 13 this summer, according to Kristin Dillard, youth services director.

In Boston, the city’s Summer Learning Community is celebrating a significant expansion of programs. Last year, Mayor Martin Walsh announced a goal of reaching 10,000 kids during the summer. The goal has already been exceeded, with nearly 12,000 students in 120 programs this summer, said Danielle Kim, director of policy and communications for Boston After School & Beyond.

Share your Summer Learning Day or summer program photos and stories with Youth Today. Email RWallack@YouthToday.org.

More related articles:

Service Learning in the Summer: Youth Can Widen Knowledge, Develop New Skills

Communities Take Creative Approaches to Summer Learning