Month: July 2019

Landscape blue yellow nature blurred background.Panorama field sunshine view.Ukranian flag abstract wallpaper.Summer design blossom meadow backdrop.

National Summer Learning Week is a celebration dedicated to elevating the importance of keeping kids learning, safe and healthy every summer, ensuring they return to school in the fall ready to succeed in the year. This year, each day will focus on a new theme: Literacy, STEM, Arts, College and Career Readiness, and Nutrition and Wellness.

Join PSAYDN as we acknowledge the vital importance of summer learning. Post the Governor’s Summer Learning Week Proclamation and Senate Resolution at the entrance to your program. Inform parents and staff about the significance in having children and youth learn in an informal setting.


A female middle school student concentrates while using a digitized pen during a design class. She is sitting in front of a computer monitor.

Afterschool programs like Schools and Homes in Education (SHINE) in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, give elementary and middle school students the opportunity to explore and prepare for different careers by delivering developmentally appropriate curriculum. They are effective in building student’s academic and technical skills as well as social and emotional development, including employability skills like teamwork, communication and critical thinking. In fact, 77% of parents nationally agree that afterschool programs can help students develop workforce skills. These programs can reinforce and strengthen learning in the classroom and should be critical partners for Career Technical Education programs or other career-focused learning.


Based on brain research that is still in the early stages, it has shown that, when it comes to learning, space matters. A space that allows for movement can reduce student fatigue, improve performance and promote student collaboration.

Barrett’s study of 153 U.K. classrooms in 27 schools found that adjusting particular classroom characteristics — light and temperature, the amount of flexibility and student choice — boosted academic performance in reading, writing and math by 16 percent over the course of a year. A quarter of that improvement was attributed to letting students decide when to get up and where to sit. In 2016, a study using brain imaging to examine the effects of standing desks on high school students revealed improvements in working memory as well as in students’ ability to plan, organize and finish tasks.


Palo Alto’s Unified School District’s new STEAM-based learning system, Ohlone Elementary School co-teachers Michelle Yee and Cathy Harkness sought to develop their students’ inquiry, dialogue and critical-thinking skills.

The initial idea to make board games came from Harkness’ husband, who used a similar activity when he taught an afterschool program. Harkness then took to NextDoor.com, a social-networking service for neighborhoods, where she found 23-year-old board-game maker and Mountain View resident Justin Leong.

Harkness and Yee asked Leong to help their students create their own board games so they could apply the various STEAM subjects in a fun way.

“The goal here is for them (students) to go back to their regular school year loving school,” Yee said.


At the end of last year, a video of an elementary school teacher greeting a line of children outside of her classroom went viral. As students entered, each one selected the greeting they wanted from the teacher from a poster: a handshake, a hug, a high five or a simple wave. Soon, another video showing a similar morning routine went viral, and then another and another and another.

These crowd-pleasers are not just about building connections with students. They are important examples of how to teach children consent, boundaries, and bodily autonomy at an early age.


Timothy Heffernan is the gifted support teacher at Franklin Area High School in Venango County, a rural part of northwest Pennsylvania. Each year, he lets his students tell him what they are interested in and designs their learning around that topic. Four years ago, it was robotics. Heffernan went online and started looking for good ideas. That is when he found VEX Robotics, a STEM education program that provides robots to schools and gives students a chance to compete with their creations.

Now, in 2019, that class has grown into the five-county Pennsylvania Rural Robotics Initiative, which has placed 180 robots into the hands of hundreds of students. The initiative is aimed at helping prepare students for what comes after graduation.


PSAYDN at Center for Schools and Communities
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