Summer Rising, New York City’s massive effort to rebrand summer school as something fun and educational, has a lesson for the regular school year: Children really like outdoor and hands-on activities.
One 7-year-old’s favorite thing was a trip to a bouncy house, while another loved having a barbecue. One 10-year-old was excited to learn how to jump rope for double Dutch; another enjoyed playing hide-and-seek, running through the hallways, ducking into classrooms.
Painting, drawing, and bracelet-making were high on the list, according to students at several Summer Rising sites in Brooklyn. Playing games on computers or classroom smartboards also got top marks.
The city offered 110,000 spots for elementary and middle school students in its $350 million Summer Rising program, up from last year’s 98,000. Propped up by federal dollars, it is the second year in a row that New York City offered the program free to any student, not just those who needed academic help.
Last summer, the program, which combines academics and enrichments, was seen as a crucial bridge into the new school year for students who had been out of classrooms for prolonged periods due to the pandemic.
This summer, seats were snatched up days after applications opened. Education department officials said they are working with the Adams administration and City Council in hopes of continuing the program. Educators see it as an important defense against “summer slide,” when students regress academically during the break.
Nationwide, summer programs were bolstered through the Biden administration’s federal relief funds, setting aside $122 billion to school districts through the 2024-25 school year to help with reopening campuses and aiding academic recovery. An analysis from Future Ed estimated that districts will spend more than $6 billion of that money on summer and after-school programs.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, who visited P.S. 7 in Queens this week to see Summer Rising in action, lauded the program as a way to continue to help children reacclimate to the classroom.
“They’re ready for the school year. They’re full of confidence,” he said of the students in the program. “They have more social skills.”
He also touted how schools were working with community-based organizations, with teachers mainly responsible for the academic portion in the morning, and staffers from community organizations leading the afternoon activities such as trips, art activities, and backyard games.