Guest Blog: Summer Learning – Full STEAM Ahead

By Courtney Havrilek, the Lead Afterschool Coordinator at Lathrop High School in Fairbanks.  


Esteemed colleagues, as did many of you, I celebrated the end of the school year with plenty of joy, reflection on successes and challenges, and, at times, a bit of a heavy heart knowing some students still face big challenges ahead. I gave words of encouragement, attended awards ceremonies and graduation, signed yearbooks, and teared up a bit over goodbyes. The school year has come to an end and I am ready to put my feet up and enjoy some sunny relaxation on the deck. And, like most of my colleagues across the state, that deck time was a fine one hour of celebration and I am now in full summer program planning mode!  


So, here we go!  Armed with new knowledge gained this school year, renewed enthusiasm for a different style of program ahead, and a sense of purpose in engaging youth in summer learning and exploration: Summer programming is on!


It may be understated to say our 21st Century Community Learning Centers in Fairbanks embrace summer learning. We LOVE the potential of summer and our summer program the Elementary Academy for Science & Technology (EAST).


There are so many reasons why summer is “where it’s at” for our students. However, a few keys to our successful summers here are:


1. Expanded time and space for integrated science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) projects.  


2. Intentional and universal support for the development of social-emotional learning across our program and projects.


3. The convergence of our most talented staff across the district coming together to provide a unique summer academy.  


4. A shared sense of purpose in knowing this opportunity for summer learning adventures has real power in narrowing the achievement gap for our students.


5. Refining new practices to bring back to school-year programs.


The STEAM focus is foundational to the EAST camp.  We build our fields of study each summer based upon student feedback and requests. June 2017 will see the return of a few fan favorites, alongside several new requests. Our amazing team is busy developing intentional, integrated and engaging adventures in: Video Game Design, Media Arts, Coding and Programming, Sports Science, Textile and Fiber Arts, Kitchen Chemistry, and 3D Sculpture.  


Our campers will dive into selected fields of study, engaging in one to two week sessions with a teacher and high school mentor.  A feature we are excited to expand upon at EAST this summer is Osmo. Many of our schools integrate Osmo for exciting spelling and math lessons, as well as tangram challenges and unique art fabrication and design. We have designed engaging and intentional lessons for use at EAST and in the school-year programs focused on inquiry and design thinking. And this summer, we will expand the level of OSMO coding available to students.


We were thrilled to receive a STEM Afterschool Innovation Mini Grant from BP, the Juneau Economic Development Council, and the Alaska Afterschool Network this winter. We used this mini grant to bring Osmos into afterschool sites across the district. Our plan for summer is to ignite Osmo activities with challenging STEAM content and challenges. We will expand upon the foundational coding skills learned by scaffolding toward more complex programming and game design.  Eric Rush, one of our awesome 21st CCLC staff, has already shared the basics on his YouTube channel. You can check out introductions to OSMO editions, coding, and more at ERU2001 or by clicking here.


We look forward to sharing lessons with our friends around the state and look forward to convening at the Alaska Afterschool Conference in November to reflect back on summer sparks and stories!  Until then, may your summer be filled with new adventures, learning, and laughter!