The Arts vs. Summer Slide

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When we think of summer we often think about the beach, hot and humid weather, ice cream cones, and of course children’s summer vacation. Teens do many things in their extended time away from school. Some choose to hit the pool or go to summer camps. Others take on a summer job and learn valuable real-life work skills. For many others, they play video games such as Minecraft, pokemon go or pokemon fire red emulator which they can put dozens of hours into. Each of these activities is stimulating to the body and brain in certain aspects, but it is not the same kind of stimulation one would receive at school. That means the youth are at risk of something called “summer slide.”

Summer slide is the learning loss that occurs when school-aged children and youth are not engaged in educational activities over the summer. This learning loss can potentially set students’ reading and math skills back by two to three months. Engagement in the arts can help prevent this loss and provide young people with an upper hand when they return to the classroom at the end of the summer.

The Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Neighborhood Studios program is a nationally recognized arts education program that is keeping over 100 teens engaged and learning for six weeks during the summer of 2016. Neighborhood Studios provides a paid summer apprenticeship for young artists that prepares them for college, career, and life after high school.

In 2016, apprentices are composing original music, prototyping mobile public art works, directing and producing short films, building scenery, writing creative nonfiction, curating an exhibition of their original photography and learning the work of William Shakespeare with a breakdancing twist. Each of the seven art studios in the program is connected to national and state educational standards to assure a high quality arts education program. Connections are made to the State of Connecticut’s Visual Arts Standards, Common Core Standards, and the National Core Arts Standards. These connections include skills in literacy, visual and performing arts, and mathematics.

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Master Teaching Artists and Studio Coordinators set goals and high expectations for apprentices. Working in seven cultural institutions across the city of Hartford. These arts and museum educators develop curriculum that includes close text reading, strategic use of digital media, narrative writing, and design thinking to name just a few. Apprentices are engaging in reading, writing and critical thinking skills that will combat learning loss they could have faced without the Neighborhood Studios program.

The arts provide young people with transferable skills that go beyond painting or playing music. Studies show that participation in the arts impacts young people academically by boosting literacy, making them more engaged learners and improves their ability to turn challenges into opportunities. After six weeks in the program, apprentices have all experienced giving critiques and learning how to accept criticism, they’ve refined and shared knowledge through writing and speaking, and they’ve become self-directed learners who can problem solve and use a variety of resources. These skills will follow apprentices into their next year of high school and through their professionals careers.

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