Additional Resources

Thought Paper

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

Executive Summary
2010 Full Thought Paper

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.

Further Reading

National Summer Learning Association (2009).  Thinking About Summer Learning: Three Perspectives 

McLaughlin, B., Pitcock, S., (2009).  Building Quality in Summer Learning Programs: Approaches and Recommendations.   New York, NY: The Wallace Foundation.

National Research Council (2009).  Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits.   Committee on Learning Science in Informal Environments.  Philip Bell,  Bruce Lewenstein, Andrew W. Shouse, and Michale A. Feder, Editors.  Board on Science Education, Center for Education.  Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education.  Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

The Wallace Foundation (2008).  A place to grow and learn: A citywide approach to building and sustaining out-of-school time learning opportunities

Migliarese, N., Researching the Child: Nature Connection (for California State Parks' Children in Nature Campaign) (2008).  The PDF can be found here 

American Institutes for Research (2005).  Effects of outdoor education program for children in California.  Palo Alto, CA. (available on the Sierra Club website).   Retrieved June 16, 2010 

Louv, R. (2005). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.

California State Parks Foundation

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