Indy Summer Learning Labs: Boosting student engagement over the summer

Indianapolis, Indiana – As the summer break progresses in central Indiana, educators and local organizations are addressing the prevalent concern of learning loss during this period.

In response to this, multiple Indianapolis organizations have joined forces to support students across Marion County. Now in its third year, the Indy Summer Learning Labs is back with its five-week educational and extracurricular program at over 40 locations across the county.

Most of these locations offer complimentary services, including instruction in English and Math, field trips, meals, and, in certain situations, transportation. This program is a collaboration between The Mind Trust and the United Way of Central Indiana. It was initiated in 2021 to combat the learning loss aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learning loss during the summer has always been a concern, but it was amplified after COVID-19,” Kateri Whitley of The Mind Trust noted. “We understood that as many students as possible should have access to high-quality, enjoyable, free or low-cost summer activities. Hence, we launched this program.”

Since its inception, Indy Summer Learning Labs has grown exponentially, expanding from approximately 3,000 students in its first year to nearly 5,000 in 2022. This year, Whitley says, the program is expected to accommodate more than 5,000 students across its numerous Indianapolis locations.

Students undergo testing at the beginning and end of the summer sessions in both reading and mathematics. According to Whitley, students’ scores have consistently improved over the summers, thanks to the devoted teachers and engaging curriculum.

Whitley stressed the importance of focusing on younger students as their foundational skills will have lasting implications. The program also prioritizes preparation for the forthcoming school year instead of focusing solely on remediation.

George Gardner, director of the Lilly Boys and Girls Club, which serves as one of the Indy Summer Learning Lab’s locations this summer, expressed his satisfaction with the impact the program has had on the young participants.

We strive to provide children with opportunities beyond their everyday experiences or school activities,” Gardner added.

Whitley echoed this sentiment by emphasizing the importance of fun alongside learning during the summer. Apart from continuing education, children need to enjoy their summer break. This is why we have field trips, pool visits, athletic activities, and fun programs, as these are crucial aspects of a child’s summer experience,” Whitley said.

As of now, Whitley states that over 5,000 students have enrolled for the summer session, which commences on Monday, June 12. Students entering grades one through nine are eligible to register.

In addition to the Learning Labs, some teachers at Indianapolis Public Schools are occupied with a free summer tutoring program the district has reinstated.

Deloren Major, an intensive intervention teacher at Brookside School, spoke of his experience with the summer school both as a former student and a current teacher. Major highlighted the importance of continuous learning during the summer.

In an effort to promote summer reading, the Indianapolis Public Library has launched its Summer Reading Program. Students are encouraged to log their reading hours at home and submit a tracking sheet for rewards throughout the summer. You can find the printable tracking sheet here.

Shelly Carroll

Shelly Carroll, a distinguished journalist, has made a name for herself working with independent news and media establishments across the United States. Her principal focus involves the meticulous exploration of various social media platforms in search of the most recent and pertinent news stories, spanning local, national, and global events. Through her unwavering dedication, Shelly ensures that her audience remains well-informed on the issues that matter most.

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