Fostering Joy and Engagement through Summer Learning
There is no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted students’ experiences this school year, leading to what some are calling learning loss. We recognize that students may have lost access to physical interaction between students and students with school personnel; access to an array of classes that promote engaged learning; and access to social-emotional and mental health supports. At the same time, we recognize that teachers, school leaders, and school support staff have continued to provide students with opportunities to learn while also caring for students’ physical, social, and emotional needs. We know and value that learning occurs naturally in a variety of places and spaces. We also know and value the following:
- Teachers have re-imagined instructional strategies across multiple learning environments.
- Family and community members are critical partners in student learning.
- Students have become more self-directed learners.
- More students than ever before have access to devices and the internet.
Summer learning programming should create opportunities to foster joy and engagement. High-quality, standards-aligned curriculum can be contextualized within place-based and/or project-based learning, which will provide rigor and relevance in students’ learning. All students need to have access to and be engaged with grade-level curriculum, and for those who need an extra boost, additional supports and 1:1 teaching should be designed to fill learning gaps within the scope of grade-level learning. Programs can have a summer or weekly themes to encourage creativity in activities and foster a camp-like environment. Systems are encouraged to invite all incoming Kindergarten through 8th grade students to participate in a summer learning program. If not possible, systems should prioritize students using data from the 2019-2020 school year or based on new student data from the 2020-2021 school year. School systems should determine the needs of students in their schools and design an approach that eliminates barriers for students to access summer learning and also addresses social and emotional wellbeing. When available, and to the extent possible, systems should also incorporate transportation, child nutrition services, medical services through school-based health clinics, and direct student services. To increase program effectiveness and maximize return on investment, systems should focus on ensuring strong student attendance and productive use of high quality instructional time.
Building on all the ways that students have been learning over the 2020-21 school year, summer learning can provide opportunities for students to maintain social, emotional, and physical health as well as continued academic learning as we plan forward to the 2021-22 school year. Our commitment this summer is to ensure that all learners are safe, that they belong in their school communities, and that they are engaged in meaningful learning opportunities. Aligning staffing, funding, community partnerships, and other essential resources for a larger target summer student population will require continued flexibility, curiosity, creativity, leadership, and collaboration.
The vision of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is to lead and support the preparation of all students to be lifelong learners who are engaged in their communities and are prepared for careers of their choosing. As part of its vision, the DPI is committed to establishing high expectations for deeper, contextualized learning in places and spaces where students belong. In order to achieve this vision, every student has to have access to the educational resources and rigor they need at the right moment in their education, across race, gender, ethnicity, language, ability, sexual orientation, family background, and/or family income.
To begin planning - or to evaluate your plans for - summer learning, we recommend that you anchor your work in addressing systemic barriers. There are four guiding questions to ground this work in the section Removing Systemic Barriers. For more information about planning for summer school, refer to the topics below.