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Education Station: CMSD's 'Summer Learning Experience' back for 2nd year

The program, started in 2021 amid COVID, helps students make up school credits through fun, innovative activities and field trips

CLEVELAND — Back by popular demand, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District's Summer Learning Experience has returned for a second year. The program went over so well last summer, the district decided to reboot it with some extras.

Calling it "Summer School" makes it sound boring. It's really Summer FUN for K through 12th graders, with an educational twist.

"We're just excited just to see our students in action and having fun and learning," says CMSD Chief Engagement Officer Lee Buddy. 

Yes, the Summer Learning Experience is technically "Summer School" but minus the stigma. Students actually enjoy catching up on classwork.

"We have everything from karate and gardening to neighborhood clean-up and robotics - a wealth of different activities that parents can choose from," says Buddy.

The program offers a diverse menu of fun camps and activities – many suggested by teachers AND students - in entertainment, STEM, fitness, even social justice, blended with standard school subjects, like math and English.

"Just fun things that they wanna do, so we're really just looking to keep them engaged over the summer," Buddy adds. 

The Summer Learning Experience was started in 2021 to help students rebound and gain academic credits after COVID left them to learn virtually. Educators believe students learned as much last summer with these fun, structured experiences as they would have learned in a classroom. CMSD Superintendent Eric Gordon said during an interview last year with NBC Nightly News' Lester Holt that he wants the change to be permanent.

"We want to make this summer experience what school looks like forever. It's not just kids who might have been struggling or having troubles. This is for everyone. We're actually including families too. So, we have activities where students and parents can work together. This is about getting our entire educational community reengaged," says Gordon. 

Kids from nearly 40 Cleveland schools will engage in innovative, educational field trips to dozens of sites through partners like Cleveland Playhouse, Boys & Girls Clubs, the Metroparks, and many others. And this year, some adjustments have been made to stretch out the summer fun.

"We've partnered with the city, the Public Library, just a variety of partners, to offer programming 3 weeks before, 3 weeks after. Parents can also sign their children up for things in the evening. We're just excited. It's not gonna be a situation where students are sitting in the classroom and someone is just lecturing them, no. They're gonna get to get their hands dirty. They're gonna get to have a lotta hands-on experiences throughout the summer," explains Buddy.

The trips, coordinated by Say Yes to Education, PACE, and The Greater Cleveland Consortium, are available full-days and half-days. Around 8,400 students signed up last year. Over 2,000 students that have already signed up this year, so far.

For information on how to register, go to the Summer Learning Experience website. Your child must be a CMSD student or be pre-enrolled in a CMSD school to participate.

Previous Reporting:

Cleveland Metropolitan School District 'Summer Learning Experience' reinvents traditional summer school

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