October 18, 2021
Our Youngest Learners + Robust Summer Programs = Ready for School!
Early learning summer programs engaged hundreds of families, spurred pre-k enrollment
On a sunny Friday in July, dozens of Baltimore families with toddlers filled the Maryland Science Center, using hands-on activities to explore how water impacts the weather and creates rainbows. Their visit was free - just one part of City Schools' early learning summer program, designed to re-engage our youngest learners while encouraging pre-K enrollment for the Fall.
This past summer’s programs were tailored and flexible. They introduced children under five to in-person learning in ways that would be most meaningful for their unique styles of learning. Assessment results from both before and after the programs showed that the programs successfully set our students on the right path as they begin their educational journeys.
This matters. For all students, recovery after a challenging year of remote learning is imperative. But for those just beginning school, it means more. It means welcoming them at their own pace in new spaces and with classroom experiences they have never had. We need to provide interesting hands-on learning that holds their attention and supports their growth. It means showing the love and compassion that produces inspiration, creativity and a sense of exploration.
Thanks to support from the Maryland State Department of Education, City Schools’ Early Learning team reached hundreds of our youngest students and families with its most robust offerings of early learning summer programs ever.
In Camp Curiosity, our five week, STEAM-based curriculum included interactive experiments, engaging crafts, play, and lots of hands-on learning at 22 schools across the city. Every Friday, families and students went on field trips that supported that week’s learning - and introduced experience-based learning to those family members not yet old enough for school. One week, the trip to Living Classrooms enhanced learning for students and families about the beach and saltwater environments - including an opportunity to hold a terrapin and experiment with brackish. Another week, students studying insects explored the Rawlings Conservatory, its butterfly garden, and the need for insects to adapt to their environments. Hundreds of students and families participated in Camp Curiosity, and nearly 1,000 took part in the Friday trips - all for free.
In the Find Your Way to Pre-k series, City Schools encouraged pre-k enrollment through 10 community events at Baltimore institutions such as the Maryland Zoo, the National Aquarium, and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. These free events were for all families in Baltimore - whether their students were enrolled at the time or not. Hundreds of families showed up, enjoyed a fulfilling experience, and enrolled their children in pre-k.
The programs effectively helped students increase their assessment scores — averaging 8% to 14% in Camp Curiosity — and increased pre-k enrollment by 50% over last year after pandemic-related drops in enrollment.
Principal Cathy Miles of Abbottston Elementary School said it best: “What a wonderful way to spend the summer! Students who participated gained SO much - academically, social/emotionally, and in areas of school readiness.”
Our approach is simple: by putting time and love into high quality learning experiences for children at their youngest, we are setting the foundation for growth as they progress. By instilling a love for learning early, we are ensuring that students will find joy and curiosity in the content they explore, whether it happens in third, fifth, ninth, or twelfth grade. City Schools programs, from community trips to engaging summer learning experiences, have helped early learners recover, enroll, and start the school year in the right place on the right foot.