The Role of Parks in High Quality Summer Learning Programs: Implications for Action in California
Sarah Pitcock, Director of Program Quality, National Summer Learning Association, M. Deborah Bialeschki, Ph.D., Director of Research, American Camp Association
Regular attendance in high quality summer programs is associated with a range of positive academic and social development outcomes, including improved skills in literacy, successful transition to the next grade, improved self-esteem and leadership skills, increased attachment to the labor market and increased likelihood of future employment. However, research in this area has shown that program attendance alone will not make a difference for young people and that as many as half of existing programs show no positive youth outcomes. Rather, it takes a high quality program to make a lasting impact on youth.
Summer out of school time is not without its challenges; summer learning loss is real and documented and contributes to more than two-thirds of the ninth grade reading achievement gap. However, research on nature exposure, play and informal learning has also documented the good news – that parks-based summer programs have an opportunity to stem and even reverse summer learning loss through programs and partnerships that foster positive youth development and outside-the-box learning.
This paper, commissioned by CSPF, seeks to capture and disseminate the field’s best thinking on those opportunities and provide parks and cultural institutions in California with an important theoretical and practical base for expanding access to high-quality summer learning programs in the state. Download the entire paper here.
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