Students Combine Summer Fun and Learning at COMPASS 273
When educators and parents fret about the summer slide, they’re not referring to a Coney Island attraction. They’re talking about the well-documented fact that summer is a time when students lose about 20 percent of what they learned the previous school year. It’s also a season that can be a “financial and logistical nightmare” for low-income working parents, as they struggle to find affordable care while they earn a living.
We’re addressing both of these issues for 125 families at The Child Center of NY’s COMPASS extended learning program at P.S. 273 in Richmond Hill. Like other Child Center summer programs, COMPASS 273 offers a free full-day program that allows parents to continue to work during the summer while their children have some summer fun—and learning.
“Our theme this summer is COMPASS Travels Through the Decades,” explains Manisha Singh, the program’s director. “The groups are divided into different decades starting from the 1960s and moving all the way up to the 2010s.”
Each week, students use a type of media to discuss the topics that were most important during those decades in the categories of U.S. history, world history, sports, fashion, and pop culture. During a weekly assembly, campers demonstrate their new knowledge in the form of a performance or presentation. Each group is judged on creativity, understanding of the topic, participation in the presentation, and support of their fellow students. This project-based learning taught campers new things about subjects they thought they knew a lot about, and even helped them learn new vocabulary for describing their knowledge. For example, 8-year-old Katelyn told us, “I learned that in 1998, Michael Jordan made a game-winning shot to win his sixth NBA championship, cementing himself as one of the greatest players of all time.”
Campers also go on trips that amplify their learning. On August 5, COMPASS 273 took part in a social justice flash mob in Rockaway Park, along with the students of three other programs (Summer in the City at P.S. 298 and The Child Center’s SONYC Waterside and Beach 41st Cornerstone programs). Each site’s dance instructor focused on a different song that echoed the themes of peace and equality. With help from Dance Instructor Nyeema McFarlane, the COMPASS 273 campers chose the song “Where Is the Love?” by the Black Eyed Peas for the program’s solo. The flash mob drew a big crowd from the beach and nearby areas.
“This flash mob was a small act of bringing awareness to the issues going on in today’s society,” says Singh.
After the event, 7-year-old Maya said, “I think we should all have peace everywhere, kids and grown-ups.”
Our SONYC Waterside program hosted a flash mob event last summer, too, notes COMPASS Program Supervisor Saher Mahmood, but this summer, staff and campers decided to make it more impactful by attaching a positive message to the performance.
Campers also visited the NY Aquarium in Coney Island to learn more about the timeless issue of wildlife conservation. “The highlight was definitely the sea lion show,” says Singh. Campers learned that the sea lions are intelligent animals and are trained to help keep them stimulated. Students also learned that they can keep these and other marine animals safe by recycling.
The sand tiger sharks were another highlight, as campers “were in awe as the sharks swam up close to the glass!” says Singh. They also enjoyed sharing their own knowledge, as one camper noted that these particular sharks are usually found in subtropical waters such as Japan, South Africa and Australia, and another camper, 9-year-old Isabel, told us she was surprised to learn that seals can’t be out of the water for a long period of time.
“You never know what to expect at COMPASS with all the staff and kids,” says 11-year-old John. “They give me a lot of laughs that leave me crying. We always have a great time.”