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Ideas from Horizons National 

Look to experienced summer learning programs when it comes to COVID recovery

Summer learning has never mattered more than it does right now. During a challenging year of remote learning, students faced increased mental health stress, higher rates of absenteeism, and disengagement in school. Teachers also experienced fatigue as they navigated the remote, hybrid, and in-person learning environments that were in a constant state of flux. Innovative and impactful summer learning programs will reverse the fatigue, energizing both students and teachers. Yet, with summer fast-approaching, plans for schools to support students through summer learning remain in limbo. Let’s remedy this situation.

Funding for summer is available at unprecedented levels through the American Rescue Plan. Signaling the importance of summer learning, the Department of Education also recently announced its National Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative. All of this has left districts and schools scrambling to put something in place for the summer of 2020. Yet, a recent analysis of 100 large and urban school districts found that more than half have not yet shared any information about their summer plans.

This is our moment to step up.

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Supporting the Whole Child Over the Long Term

Horizons programs have always employed a whole-learner approach, introducing young people to academic enrichment, STEM, experiential learning, field trips, swimming, and much more. And this doesn’t just happen over one summer – it happens week after week and year after year, so young people develop relationships with teachers, staff, mentors, and friends. 

At the heart of Horizons’ approach is social and emotional learning (SEL), the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions, achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions (CASEL). CASEL underscores that supporting the whole learner and SEL leads to many positive outcomes for students in every school and community, including increased academic performance, improved mental health, strengthened social skills, and positive behavior. 

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