“Tower Street’s summer learning program is an excellent example of hands on, play-based learning for elementary students,” said School Committee member Gina Fuller, who invited Gist to visit. “I am so proud of the documented success of the program and progress of our students. I wanted to acknowledge the teachers and success of the program.”
Westerly Public Schools Before and After School Enrichment Program (BASE) provides a six-week, Monday through Friday, full-day summer learning experience for 48 students. The program serves English language learners (ELL) and other students at risk for summer learning loss.
The program’s curriculum includes service learning and active participation in projects that are relevant to the community. Students also learn about cooking and nutrition, and engage in activities like yoga, theater and gardening, among others.
“Students have fun and learn all summer without feeling like they are in school,” Fuller said. “They learn the way a young child should learn, through experiences and play.”
Every Wednesday, students will help with the upkeep and beautifying of Wilcox Park.
And since educators are partnering with Save the Bay, students will be acting as marine ecologists and testing the quality of water locally and working with the blue crab population in Little Narragansett Bay.
“By actively engaging in these activities, students will learn the importance of preserving what we have in our local environment,” Joan Serra, the director of community relations and building operations, said.
Gist visited an afterschool camp program at the Kent County Branch of the YMCA of Greater Providence in June, saying that “many of our schools have closed for the summer, but learning doesn’t take a vacation.”
“Children’s minds are always open for learning activities,” Gist said during the June visit. “Children can learn from teachers, counselors, mentors, and of course parents as well — through family activities and at many of the high-quality programs that are available across the state.”
The Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative partially funds the program at Tower Street, Serra said.
“I hope the commissioner takes away an excellent example of a play-based learning program she can share with districts across the state as a model for improving and expanding their elementary programs both during the regular school year and in the summer,” Fuller said.
“I hope Tower Street’s program can inspire teachers in Westerly and across the state to increase the play-based learning opportunities for their students.”