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KIDS ON COURSE

May 25, 2018

Why We LOVE SUMMER

The last few days of the school year means I have to use all my mom super powers to get my kids to just go to school. They’re ages 11, 14 and 17 and seem to have early cases of senioritis. For them, summer is an endless stretch of sleeping in, camps filled with friends and canoeing, plus at least one vacation where they’ll ride frightening roller coasters and swim until they’re human prunes. That wasn’t what all my summers looked like growing up.

I was alone many days of the summer. Our apartment only had one window unit AC and I’d park myself in front of it. My mom worked and after fourth grade I was on my own in the steamy St. Louis months of June, July and August. As an only child I spent a lot of time watching TV, re-reading Baby-Sitter Club Books, and counting down the days until school started. My kids wouldn’t recognize my life when I was their ages.

That personal experience of loneliness and boredom over the summer, combined with the hard evidence that children can lose up to three months of reading and math skills over the summer, are why Kids on Course has so much to offer over the long break. If low income children had access to high quality learning over the summer, two-thirds of the nation’s achievement gap would disappear.

Kids on Course University is a seven-week summer camp designed specifically for kindergarten through fourth graders in the Cedar Rapids Community School District who need a boost in reading. Last summer we had more than 750 students attend! This free experience combines high quality instruction from certified teachers with fun, food and field trips. And the results show that students who attended Kids on Course University had seven times the reading growth over the summer as those who were invited, but didn’t attend.

Scholar Camp is our summer program for middle school students who attend Roosevelt and Wilson. When we first started Scholar Camp we weren’t sure any kids would show up. Let’s be real, middle schoolers aren’t known for enjoying getting up early and heading to school… especially when they don’t have to. So we were stunned when we saw our attendance numbers. Last summer, more than 160 sixth, seventh and eighth graders spent five weeks learning how to analyze news articles, create projects, practice math skills and read hundreds of novels. Middle school kids apparently love being with their friends, learning while having fun, and getting a free meal in the process.

For the first time in Kids on Course history we’ll have students entering high school in our program. These 14 year olds started with us when they were seven. We’ve been there for homeruns and fraction frustrations, first crushes and first finals. This summer we wanted an experience that would last with them forever, while also preparing them for the rigors and rules of high school. We decided to craft a three-pronged summer experience: volunteering, traveling, and back-to-school-boot-camp. Volunteering means each Kids on Course rising ninth grader will spend one week alongside elementary school students at Kids on Course University. They’ll be mentoring and helping kids who need the same support they needed as youngsters. The travel part will be a learning experience combined with an exciting opportunity to experience a new city: Chicago! This three-day whirlwind excursion is filled with studies in the arts, history and architecture of the third biggest city in the United States. This trip is something students had to earn with good school attendance and commitment to Kids on Course. Finally, they’ll be ending their summer by going back to school before any other high school students. They’ll learn study skills and explore the extra-curricular opportunities available as freshmen. And we’ve partnered with the Iowa College Access Network to help students assess their own career interests and goals so they can start working now for a future of their design. At the end of this boot camp every Kids on Course ninth grader will have a resume they’ll build on throughout high school, knowledge about what GPA they’ll need to reach their career goals, and connections to the opportunities in sports, arts and clubs to keep them positively engaged throughout high school.

Summer in Kids on Course is one of the busiest times of the year. It’s also when we host our huge fundraiser and community event: The Zach Johnson Foundation Classic. Everyone is invited to join us on Monday, July 9th at Elmcrest Country Club as we cheer on Zach and his fellow PGA TOUR professionals and celebrities. This free one-day event is filled with golf, entertainment and lots of love as it raises money to keep Kids on Course’s tutoring, mentoring, enrichment and summer programming 100% free for our families!

– By Beth Malicki, Kids on Course Program Leader

May 15, 2018

Summer, Finally!

Brace yourselves. Summer is coming.

Contrary to popular belief, Kids on Course staff do not spend our whole summer sunning ourselves poolside. From June 18 – August 3, our elementary staff we work at Kids on Course University (KCU), a seven-week academic summer program designed to help students maintain and grow their reading and math skills.

 

Kids on Course University is a great change of pace and setting for both students and staff. Students work on their academic skills in classes with a 15-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio. They also do many fun enrichment and STEM activities and go on field trips every week!

Last summer, Van Buren, Harrison, and Grant students gathered each day at Harrison Elementary. Mr. Wertz, the summer enrichment leader, came up with many great ideas to keep kids engaged: making slime, designing and building fidget spinners, and a gym scooter derby.

Even though Kids on Course University has a fun summer camp vibe, the goal is serious: to prevent summer reading loss. Students who participated in KCU in 2017 grew 7 times more in reading than their peers who did not participate. The small classes with a certified teacher have proven to be highly effective.

 

Kids on Course elementary staff have a blast spending the summer with kids. We play hard at recess. We help struggling students. We support teachers. We go on field trips (Seeing Cars 3 with 150 kids, yes please). We deliver weekend food bags. We communicate with parents about how their kids are doing at KCU.

The best part of KCU is spending more time with the students. The kids work hard all summer and it is rewarding to see them grow more confident in their reading and math going into the new school year.

 

– Greg White, Van Buren Site Manager

September 13, 2017

Finding Your Groove

With the school year off to a fast start, students across the nation are getting back into the groove of the school year, some faster than others.

For roughly 700 elementary students in Cedar Rapids this past summer, the groove was found about 10 weeks ago. These students participated in an academic summer camp, located at one of six local “supersites” (Arthur, Harrison, Madison, Taylor, Truman, and Wright Elementary).

This summer camp, called Kids on Course University (KCU), is a 7-week program designed for students who just need a little extra support to rapidly advance their skills in the areas of math, reading, and writing. Because this is a camp, KCU staff made sure to add the fun! In addition to certified teachers leading project-based activities in academic areas, there was also a full-time Enrichment Leader whose job it was to create fun and exciting experiences for students doing things they may never have done before!

There was a moment of sheer excitement at the Harrison Supersite when they were learning about outer space with their teachers. They were tasked with creating their own launch-able rockets in enrichment, and the results were stunning. The thundering cheers from the kids made the hallways sound like NASA’s launch pad down in Florida.

The following day, these young rocket scientists had their sights on the moon as they got to launch their very own rockets!

While the kiddos thought this was the coolest thing ever, the teachers thought something else was even cooler:

“These kids are so engaged in what they are doing during camp. They don’t even realize that they are learning math by measuring their rockets, they don’t realize they are reading when following the instructions to make it, and they don’t realize they are writing when they take notes and review what worked and didn’t.”

Projects like these continue to get kids excited and wanting to learn new things. The students who participated in KCU are starting this new school year further ahead of where they left off last year. They are excited to learn and grow, and are ready to meet the new challenges that await them. It certainly seems like they found their groove.

Check back on the Kids on Course website soon to see the results of the 2017 Summer Camp!

Tyler Zaruba

Kids on Course – Grant

March 28, 2017

Kids on Course University 2017

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Luke Reynolds, Harrison Site Coordinator

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As the weather gets warmer I am reminded that summer is on the way and with it, Kids on Course University.  KCU marks the beginning of arguably my favorite part of the Kids on Course calendar and I’ve narrowed down why this is to a few reasons.

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The first reason is the relationships that are built over the course of camp and I mean that among all parties involved. From a personal standpoint I get to focus on the 50 kids who attend KCU from Harrison, I get to see them everyday for multiple hours at a time. This is a stark difference from the 300+ kids I see during the school day working at Harrison. The kids I see at camp are among the ones whom I know best and I think they benefit from having an adult at school who cares about them and knows them. For the teachers that work at camp I think it is hugely beneficial because often times they end up teaching kids at camp who they will have as future students. This rapport they build translates to more confidence for students during the year. Finally, students get a chance to meet students from other schools which allows kids to expand their horizons socially and make friends who they might meet back up with in middle school. One of the questions I get a lot about summer camp from kids is “Is (student from Van Buren/Grant) coming to camp again this year.” The relationships that are built during such a short time are fascinating to me and a definite benefit of KCU.

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Students at the Cleveland KCU site enjoyed an inflatable water slide during their enrichment time last summer 2016.

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The second reason I like KCU is that it demonstrably works and results in more positive academic outcomes for students who regularly attend. 89% of the students who attended last summer improved their reading outcomes, and one in five is now on grade level I reading! You can dig into more of our results are listed on our website and can be accessed by hitting the results tab. I attribute this success to small class sizes; they’re in groups of 10-15 students. Certified, licensed teachers lead each classroom. Many of these teachers work at the same schools where these kids attend during the school year, so there are already strong relationships. Right off the bat these kids get an awesome amount of attention. The day is broken down into three subjects, math, reading, and writing. These are the building blocks to all other types of learning and students get 50 minutes of lessons in these subject areas every day. Each lesson is either designed to eliminate a demonstrated skills deficit within the class or in some cases pre-teach concepts they will learn in the upcoming school year. It can be more personalized due to the smaller group size, paced as fast or as slow as is needed, and teachers are given the flexibility to teach what they feel their group needs. It’s cool to watch and it’s shocking how much kids learn over the course of the summer, when paired with all the great instruction they receive during the school year.

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“89% of the students who attended last summer improved their reading outcomes, and one in five is now on grade level I reading! ”

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The last reason I love summer camp it is safe and it is fun, which seems really basic. We offer two meals a day, have 20+ adults who are all trained and love kids, and are housed in district elementary schools. It’s reassuring to know 600+ kids from all over Cedar Rapids had a safe place to go much of the summer. From a fun perspective kids at the Harrison site spent over an hour outdoors everyday, playing soccer, capture the flag, zombie tag and participating in a field day featuring literally the largest slip and slide I have ever seen. Kids got to go to Kernels stadium and see everything that players see on a daily basis, go to the Raptor Center to see crazy cool birds of prey, and also got a chance to see creepy crawlers from the Iowa State Bug Zoo (not my thing, but 1st graders are braver than I am). This is just a small fraction of what happened at Harrison and I heard of things that made me jealous at other sites (like cosmic bowling and a moon jump).

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Students at the KCU Harrison Site practice math skills in fun and hands-on ways during the summer.

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If your kid was invited to go and you are sending them this summer, great, I’ll see you there! If you are on the fence I hope you strongly consider sending your student, it’s a great time and can be truly transformative.

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