Sweltering spring temperatures in South Florida should remind parents and caregivers that summer is just around the corner. And that means finding something for your kids to do that is productive, engaging, educational and fun. Enter summer camp and or internships.
Our lives are just about back to full throttle these days, and for parents, summertime presents a major challenge to keep their children busy. For many children and families who live in cities like Miami – with an extremely high cost of living – the prospect of a summer vacation or overnight camps in the northeast might be out of reach. But that doesn’t mean summer camps are not accessible. There are literally hundreds of low-cost or free summer camp options across Miami-Dade County, many of which are funded by The Children’s Trust.
Research has shown that summer camp for children of all ages can result in marked academic improvement and, perhaps even more importantly, big gains in social-emotional learning. An online story from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, identified five ways that summer camps help children and youth improve their social and emotional learning: introducing children to a different group of kids, different than what they might be used to; providing opportunities to make new friends; creating space where campers can be silly, without fearing bullying; taking a break from technology; and modeling teamwork or sportsmanship.
Summer camp is also among the best ways to keep children learning on several fronts without the pressure and sometimes difficult-to-manage classroom schedules and challenges. The importance of summer learning is even more critical for children from families with lower incomes or otherwise disadvantaged. The research on summer learning loss goes back more than 100 years, but the whole impact has only recently been recognized. “Students are losing a lot of what they learned during the school year,” said former President Barack Obama in 2010, in an interview with NBC’s The Today Show.
Since then, the research has focused in greater amounts on how certain populations are even more impacted. “Virtually all of the advantage that wealthy students have over poor students is the result of differences in the way privileged students learn when they are not in school… America doesn’t have a school problem. It has a summer vacation problem,” wrote Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers in 2011.
A story by US News & World Report cites new research from the NWEA, a research-based, nonprofit organization that supports students and educators, that shows disadvantaged kids may learn the same as other children during the school year but that they lose ground over the summer. That’s part of the reason Education Secretary Miguel Cardona recently called for education officials to offer intensive summer learning programs for students who have incurred the steepest academic losses due to the pandemic.
All that leads to a basic conclusion: it’s more important than ever to get your kids into some beneficial summer activities. Fortunately, there are options in Miami-Dade County and here are 3 things to consider when picking what is right for them:
Picking a summer camp that is right for you
Every family has different needs, preferences and parameters that need to be taken into account when choosing the right summer camp for their children. Do research on staff, safety protocols, special interests and how they deal with children with disabilities before signing up. Hours and location are also critical to making sure that a summer camp works for you. For a list of summer camps in Miami-Dade County funded by The Children’s Trust visit our Summer Camp page.
Take on summer learning loss
It is well established that kids are subject to losing important skills and knowledge they have gained during the school year and that by not flexing their brain muscles it may be harder to get back up to speed next school year if they do nothing. That’s why The Children’s Trust and Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) partnered for Summer305 last year and are doing it again this year. The two launched the Summer 305 Adventure initiative to make free summer camps accessible to thousands of children who might not ordinarily join a summer camp and are in danger of learning loss.
The initiative brings M-DCPS teachers to summer camps to provide tutoring and get kids learning ahead of their return to school in the fall. Registration starts May 2. Visit summer305.dadeschools.net for more information.
Getting kids ready for a career in summer
While children will benefit greatly from summer camps, the allure and effectiveness for teenagers diminishes with age. That’s where a summer internship can come in play to help give them a productive activity for the summer, while also preparing them for their careers. If they’re lucky, they can also get paid!
The Summer Youth Internship Program, sponsored in part by The Children’s Trust, offers a 5-week internship at businesses and organizations across the county. The internship is for rising 10 through 12 graders and includes interview experiences, meeting and working with professionals, completing real work assignments and giving them real-world experiences for future jobs. Participants are paid for the internship, which runs from July 1 through August 5. Those interested need to complete an online pre-internship course by May 13, and the deadline for a complete application is May 27. Visit miamiinterns.org for more information.