Rising first-graders from Sebastian and Treasure Coast Elementary Schools needing a boost to make sure they are on grade-level when they start back to school this fall discovered that reading really is “out of this world.”
What helped “launch” these children into literacy success stories? Literacy in Motion (LIM), a hands-on, literature intensive program The Learning Alliance developed in collaboration with the Vero Beach Museum of Art and the School District of Indian River County to help stop the summer slide. According to recent studies, children can lose as much as two months of knowledge over the summer. The program also gives low-performing students the chance to catch up with their peers academically.
“The program targets students who are exiting first grade and going into second grade,” said LIM program facilitator, Debbie Smith. “We're looking at students who need a little extra push during the summer months to continue their learning so that when they start school, hopefully, they're going to be right where their peers are if not a little bit ahead.”
The space-themed summer program immersed students in literacy by connecting reading to the museum's exhibit, “Astronomy Photographer of the Year.” More than 50 photographs of celestial spectacles selected from 3,800 entries taken by astrophotographers in 91 countries were showcased in the exhibit featuring aurorae, galaxies, the moon, the sun, people and space, planets, comets, asteroids, skyscapes, stars and nebulae.
The children were able to explore “outer space” through the photographs and then express their learning through movement, art and music, which provided a richer learning experience. Additionally, as the students traveled “to infinity and beyond,” their space exploration aligned with the county's Moonshot Moment goal, to have 90 percent of children reading on grade level by the third grade.
“We work on a complete literacy program. The students have a theme or focus. They have read books about space and learned vocabulary dealing with space. We incorporate music, drama and art with content knowledge. They're using all of their modalities of learning, and they're using all of their senses and internalizing that information. It just is a more meaningful way of learning,” explained Smith.
“By applying what they have learned in a really authentic way, it's not just information that they're learning, but they’re also applying information to something more tangible and concrete. Now they can express the knowledge they have gained in a theatre performance, a musical performance or through art,” continued Smith.
To demonstrate their learning, the students ended camp with a stellar performance of original songs, plays and writings. Students read original acrostic poems about constellations they created; acted out stories inspired by astronomy photographs; performed original plays, used movement to interpret the book “Zoo in the Sky” and shared projects created during the four-week program.
According to Deborah Morse, first-grade teacher at Liberty Magnet and LIM teacher, the children are exposed to rich literature and then given an opportunity to respond with creative and engaging activities. “Research shows that when children have ownership in the activities, it becomes theirs. Our whole performance is based on building experiences they invested with their own ideas. When you give children the opportunity to respond to literature with the richness of visual art, music or a dramatic performance, the power that has in the children's ability to make the information their own, makes the vocabulary real.”
The primary focus and purpose this summer, according to Morse, has been to keep children engaged in learning during the summer, a time when learning tends to slide. “We've been focused on this critical transition going from first grade into second grade when they're just really starting to read and love reading. We don't want to lose that. We've had the absolutely amazing opportunity to spend some quality time here in the museum. These kids get to go and be in the galleries with the art and really develop deep thinking skills and the ability to look closely. They've built up their capacity as performers and as creators but also their ability to respond and engage with the arts.”
About The Learning Alliance:
At The Learning Alliance, our work is predicated on the question – What does it take to achieve 90% literacy by third grade such that we create literate, compassionate, creative citizens who will improve our world? The Learning Alliance is a catalyst for innovation and collaboration supporting the Moonshot Moment 90% literacy transformative goal by arming front-line educators, parents, and community leaders with the tools, knowledge, and support necessary for success. Through innovative, evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning, we empower teachers to transform children’s lives. Through partnerships with the School District of Indian River County, Indian River State College, community leaders and civic youth organizations in our community, we hope to create local solutions that can serve as a model for the nation.
For more information about The Learning Alliance, please visit www.thelearningalliance.org or call 877-548-READ (7323).