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Summer Learning: ‘Thinking About Thinking’ All Year Long

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 12:41
The founders of the HOPE Learning Center are Jessica Rodgers, left, and Aleta Parker.
Christine Sampson

About a year ago this month, researchers published a study on “summer learning loss,” the phenomenon in which children, over summer vacations, lose some of the skills and knowledge they worked so hard to build during the school year.

It is estimated that kids lose as much as 20 percent of reading and 27 percent of math skills gained after completing third grade. For those who have just finished seventh grade, the loss in reading averages 36 percent and, in math, almost 50 percent. The figures were compiled by an organization called N.W.E.A. (originally incorporated as the Northwest Evaluation Association), based on data from the 2015 school year.

Such statistics inspired Jessica Rodgers and Aleta Parker, who are literacy specialists and longtime teachers at the Bridgehampton School, to launch an organization they call HOPE Learning. “HOPE” stands for “helping others persevere early,” Ms. Parker explained.

They are serving the children who attend the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center this summer, many of whom go to the Bridgehampton School the rest of the year, but who also represent Springs, Southampton, and other areas. HOPE Learning holds its lessons in the lower level of the First Baptist Church of Bridgehampton, in a space outfitted with a library of children’s books and tables of Chromebook computers donated by the child care center. BNB Bank has also supported the new program.

“They’ve gained so much progress, and bought into their learning,” Ms. Parker said. “We see them shine and embrace themselves as a learner, but then it is June and they leave. A lot of parents don’t have the resources or the knowledge for where to go to help out the kids. This is a first start.”

Ms. Rodgers said they plan not only to review skills from the most recent school year, but also to give students a taste of what to expect in the year ahead.

“We’re learning interventionists, and we know how to target the skills that the kids need at their level,” she said.

They have formally incorporated as a nonprofit organization. Ms. Parker’s niece, Deja Miller, a former Bridgehampton student who is now a math teacher, is helping out, as is Ms. Rodgers’s teenage son, Connor. They plan to offer programs for kids “anytime there’s down time,” Ms. Parker said — year round, on weekends, and on vacations.

“Even if they don’t gain, we’re looking for at least sustaining,” she said. “Making sure that they’re thinking, and thinking about thinking in some way. Knowing that they’re not sitting at home playing video games all day — to me, that’s progress.”

The students have taken part in math relay races, meditation, and character   and confidence-building activities. They have healthy snacks and enjoy socializing, the two teachers said.

Bonnie Michelle Cannon, the executive director of the child care center, called it a wonderful partnership.

“The kids like it. It’s fun, so it’s not like they’re going to school,” she said. “That’s a good thing, especially in the summertime, when most kids take a break from school. We felt it was important they continue with some type of learning so they don’t lose their skills.”

Ms. Rodgers said the goal was to help level the playing field for children in the community.

“It goes beyond just helping one group of children. It’s positive in their homes, which makes it positive for their parents,” she said. “It puts us all at an economic advantage within the community, with long-term results that will help the children.”

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