For the first time in U.S. history, 50% of public school children are living in disadvantaged communities. Research shows that long summer breaks have a negative impact on the learning trajectories of low-income students of color. Extended learning opportunities are rare in Southeastern San Diego; and parents seldom have the financial resources to pay for these supplemental educational experiences. Groundwork is filling this gap, providing essential summer and after-school educational opportunities to underserved youth.
Groundwork offers three extended learning academies at pivotal points in student development. Each are designed by credentialed teachers and teacher leaders, in close collaboration with educational researchers at UC San Diego. The after-school educational programs described here provide extended learning opportunities aimed at closing the achievement gap, and they include:
Summer Science Academy
Piloted initially with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency, Groundwork now offers annually a two-week Summer Learning Academy, designed to bridge the math/science gap of students entering sixth grade. More rooted in the demonstrated success of informal STEM education, the program serves sixty students at the EarthLab, and addresses San Diego’s regional water quality and water conservation challenges. It uses math and science principles to inform student-led system designs and protocols to bring environmental benefits to their schools and neighborhoods. The program culminates in a student-led workshop to share with families and community leaders the responses students developed to the water issues.
Summer Scientific Literacy Academy
The EarthLab is a central component of the Summer Readers-Future Leaders (SRFL) community-based summer learning program offered to 240 rising second, third, and fourth graders attending elementary schools in Southeastern San Diego.
The program engages students in learning experiences designed to reduce summer reading loss, fuel motivation to read, enhance physical and social-emotional growth, and increase exposure to inquiry-based science activities that support new state standards. SRFL is one facet of a multi-pronged strategy for ensuring that students finish third grade reading proficiently. SRFL goals include both learning and developmental youth outcomes as well as organizational outcomes. Teachers participate in Groundwork’s rigorous informal science learning professional development and then, along with teacher leaders from SDSU and UCSD, support students in experiential hands-on science learning opportunities at the EarthLab over five weeks in the summer. Sample PD and lessons
The EarthLab After-school Academy invites middle school students to participate in a multi-disciplinary program informed by the unique interests and talents of those participating, and led by dedicated teachers and high school and university student mentors.
The Academy is premised upon the national research which indicates that extended learning opportunities for middle and high school students have benefits beyond academic improvement. It is clear that programs serving these students are valuable are linked to lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, vandalism, and juvenile crime. The EarthLab programs focus on project-based and service learning models, with an emphasis on personal development. Because students from underserved communities are less prepared than their white middle-class counterparts and often lag behind in school, they benefit significantly from extra support. According the the National Education Association, “after school can be as important as what happens during the school day.”
Student and community groups from around San Diego are welcome to schedule a Friday field trip to the EarthLab. Although not as tightly aligned with NGSS as the school-based multiple visit learning program, field trip educational activities are carefully tailored to support the grade-appropriate learning objectives of teachers and/or the specific goals of a youth organization.