Free Summer Program Sets Kindergartners on the Path To Success

If you are a parent caught in the puzzling equation of having to find a viable solution to keep your kindergartener learning through the summer months despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19, Waterford.org has the answer. The education nonprofit is offering the Waterford Upstart Summer Learning Path, a free program that helps to ensure Maryland children stay on track over the summer. The program seeks to support students and families who have been affected by COVID-19, either through personal economic hardship or due to the indefinite closure of many PreK and Head Start options.

photo

Photo Courtesy of Kim Fischer

Kylie Yellowman Williams from the Navajo Nation flashes a big grin as she opens her new computer for the first time.

“In the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, an at-home solution like the Waterford Upstart Summer Learning Path has proven to be not only effective in educating our youngest learners, but also a necessity for many families,” said Claudia Miner, Waterford Upstart Executive Director and co-founder. “Thanks to our generous philanthropic partners, hundreds of Maryland families won’t have to worry about the learning loss associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. They can feel confident their children will walk into their first day of kindergarten prepared and ready to learn.”

This is the second year that Waterford.org has offered the Summer Learning Path program. Waterford.org seeks to blend the best aspects of learning science, mentoring relationships, and innovative technologies to form community, school, and home programs that deliver excellence and equity for all learners.

According to the organization, in the summer of 2020, more than 13,000 children across nine states registered for the Waterford Upstart Summer Learning Path. Waterford.org also noted using the software five days a week over the course of 13 weeks, children achieved an average grade equivalence of “Kindergarten Advanced” level—which is where most children score at the end of their kindergarten year.

Kim Fischer is National Spokesperson and Vice President of Communication for Waterford.org.

“We launched Waterford Upstart Summering Learning Path as a result of COVID-19,” said Fischer. “Our funders came to us and asked what they could do to help make sure kids kept learning over the summer months. We were able to get this program together in about two weeks. Every aspect of the Summer Learning Path was made possible thanks to our donors and funders.

“Once children fall behind, it’s hard to catch-up. The program helps to fill the gap in learning. This program takes place in the home and gives families all the tools they need.”

With the Waterford Upstart Summer Learning Path, parents receive weekly calls from a personal coach. Additionally, notifications through Waterford’s app let them know what their child is learning and suggest ways to engage together offline.

Children use Waterford Upstart’s personalized online program 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week during the condensed summer program. According to Waterford.org, this allows students to achieve the number of program minutes necessary to be kindergarten-ready and still falls well within the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) and World Health Organization’s recommendations of no more than one hour of screen time per day for four-year-old children. The program also provides laptops and Internet access to families who need them.

“We are focusing on reaching families whose kids have been most impacted by COVID,” she said. We were able to help 13,000 kids, but one of the things most difficult in fall 2020 was not being on the ground meeting people, going door-to- door, and visiting Headstart and WIC locations where we might find families in need of our services.

photo

Photo Courtesy of Kim Fischer

Cora Deppe from Belleville, IL works on her vocabulary while her mother Beth, watches.

“When we started the Summer Learning Path last summer, some of our biggest partners were school districts trying to find families they knew would be hurting and sign them up for this program. We were able to provide our school districts with the Summer Learning Path to keep learning going. We had to have our graduation online, but are looking forward to when we can have them in person.”

According to Fischer, the program is available to 700 families across Maryland and begins May 25, 2021, and concludes September 1, 2021.

“It’s the foundation of literacy that is the number one goal of this program,” said Fischer. “We want to make sure children have that foundation entering kindergarten. We want them to be confident because that means so much to these little ones. When kids enter kindergarten and see other students know their letters and numbers and they don’t, that really affects them. We want to put them on the path to literacy. Many of our kindergarteners enter already reading on a first-grade level. We want children to know early on, they can learn and be good at education.”

For more information about the Waterford Upstart Summer Learning Path or to apply visit https://www.waterford.org/upstart/summer-learning-path/