January 06 2014
We know. You want to relax this summer. But we also know that for many educators summer is a time to collaborate, try new tools, and come up with ideas.
And, if you teach in a community of less-privileged students, you may be concerned that your students will fall further behind during the long summer vacation. The race to get into the best schools and build the best college application resumes is only getting hotter.
Studies have shown that the gap between what high- and low-income families spend on education enrichment has tripled in the last 40 years. Today, high-income families spend nearly $7 in education enrichment for every $1 low-income families spend. The largest spending differences are for activities such as music lessons, travel, and summer camps.
The result is an even wider gap when the new school year starts up.
Low-income kids “are 6,000 hours behind rich kids in what they’ve gotten to do in their lives,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. “We’ve got to catch that up.”
To help close that gap, cities throughout the country are turning to their homegrown resources to create a citywide “campus” where kids can follow their interests, create, and discover. With their rich arts, science, history resources, parks, and beaches, cities are a wealth of potential—if kids can just tap into it.
This summer, cities are connecting those opportunities in new ways for kids through the Cities of Learning initiative. In Los Angeles, that might mean kids joining at libraries and the Getty Center to hone their art and computer coding skills. In Chicago, it might mean doing some urban camping with the Chicago Park District or stargazing at the Adler Planetarium. In Dallas, it might mean exploring community action with digital storytelling. In Pittsburgh, kids might join the growing Maker Movement or pick up some engineering skills while making robots.
Connecting all these activities are digital badges. Designed by the Mozilla Foundation, open digital badges are a new form of credentialing for the digital age. Participating organizations design the badges, outlining the skills kids will learn and the pathways they’ll take to acquire those skills. Once earned, kids can display their badges online for teachers, employers, and others to see. With a click, anyone can learn about the skills needed to earn a badge, which skills the youth has mastered, and see examples of work.
If you’re interested in transforming your own community into a citywide campus for learning, you can find out more information on how to do that at the Cities of Learning website.
But the kids don’t get to have all the fun. Cities of Learning is part of the Summer to Make, Play, and Connect, which also offers a range of opportunities for educators, in school and out. The campaign is spearheaded by Educator Innovator, powered by the National Writing Project, and the Mozilla Foundation’s Maker Party.
The Summer to Make, Play, and Connect activities are free and open to anyone, and are all related in some way to Connected Learning principles.
The Summer to Make, Play and Connect website is the starting point for finding out about ongoing activities. Here’s a selection:
So wherever you are, join your colleagues this summer and make something.
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