A group of rising third-graders from Sebastian and Treasure Coast Elementary schools dove into summer learning with the help of The Learning Alliance, the Environmental Learning Center (ELC) and the School District of Indian River County.
Students spent four weeks immersed in literacy as they explored the Indian River Lagoon through the Literacy on the Lagoon (LOL) program, a collaborative program developed to stop the summer slide. Studies show that children lose two or more months of grade-level equivalency during the summer.
Second graders not reading on grade-level when they finished the school year were invited to explore the ELC twice a week and then head back to the classroom for three days of intensive reading-centric learning.
The students saw firsthand the flora and fauna that they read about in the classroom and took things a step further by creating crafts and projects about what they observed while out in the field. Through a literature-rich environment, students completed research projects and shared their new appreciation for and understanding of the world around them.
“The partnership with the ELC is impactful because the kids get to look deeper at the world around them,” said Jennifer Alderton, LOL program coordinator. “So many of our students have never even been in the water of the lagoon. They've never been in a canoe or a pontoon boat. Now they make connections between the classroom and real-life activities.”
For many of these children, already struggling with reading, the concepts introduced through their science curriculum are abstract because they've never experienced the concept themselves. “That has been the magic of having the program for the last few years,” said Alderton.
When they go back to the classroom, the students work in small groups, independently reinforcing and applying what they learned during their visits to the ELC by researching a lagoon animal.
According to Alderton, “When the summer program began, the students filled in a circle map about what makes a healthy lagoon. They were able to come up with maybe four or five different things. Every week they were able to fill in a little more. On the last classroom day, their charts were full, bursting at the seams.”
Cindy Honey, a Sebastian Elementary School resource teacher and LOL teacher, sees the partnership as a means for the students to connect reading with what they learn at the ELC, “so that it's real life learning that they're doing and applying their reading skills for a purpose. It's actually applying what they're reading to the environment and what's around them that makes them more passionate readers.”
The students used bio cubes to look closely at their environment, observe the biodiversity of the ELC and then read the literature to pull out details about what they learned. They explored camouflage, habitats, animal adaptations, the water cycle and more.
LOL 5th-grade teacher at Fellsmere Elementary School Catherine Beck sees the program as a way for the students to explore hands-on. “Literacy on the Lagoon is a fantastic program. For a teacher, this program has been phenomenal. It gives the children background information, and it solidifies the vocabulary. They develop a concrete understanding of the world around them.”
“It's going to put that little bug in their ear and in their heart to really want to learn more and study more. Those are natural thing kids want to do; they just have to be given the tools to do it. That's exactly what this camp does. It gives them those tools that they can explore and learn and dig into things that they really don't get the chance to do otherwise,” explained Honey.
Alderton, added “It's so powerful to see the kids when they come back to school in the fall. The program really is helping close the gap, and it gives them that little leg up going into next year. I think that it really sets them up for a more successful start to their third grade.”
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).