Summer enrichment programs to keep students STEM-ready

Preventing the dreaded “summer slide” doesn’t have to be boring.

That’s the message city Department of Education officials hope students and parents will hear as they unveil their slate of free summer enrichment programs.

Many of the classes focus on vital Science, Technology, Education and Math (STEM) skills.

“We know there is summer learning loss for kids when they are not doing any reading and not engaging in anything we would classify as educational activity,” said Dr. Linda Curtis-Bey, executive director of STEM for the city’s Department of Education. “In enrichment programs, students are doing project-based learning and are engaged in a number of activities they often don’t get the time to do during the school year.”

Curtis-Bey said those activities range from gardening to a walk through a museum.

Enrichment programs are different from traditional summer school, which is focused on students who have not met promotional standards for the next grade.

These are voluntary classes provided by the city to give students new experiences, retain what they learned during the school year and better prepare them for the next grade.

Seats are limited and demand is high. Scores of students apply for about 30,000 seats in several different programs.

Parents and caregivers must apply through a lottery. There are also special considerations for siblings who apply. And about 50% of the STEM seats are set aside for girls, who have been traditionally underrepresented in those fields.

“Research suggests it’s important to keep kids engaged very early on in science and mathematics,” said Curtis-Bey. “When they leave elementary school and go to middle school, we want them to be excited about math and science.”

All students receive free breakfast and lunch. In some cases, free transportation is available.

Students won’t be cooped up inside a classroom all day, Curtis-Bey promised. Many of the programs allow for physical activities, field trips and other chances to get outdoors during the summer.

A special program for second graders includes STEM activities as they hone math and reading chops to prepare for third grade.

“We want all students to be able to read by the end of second grade,” Curtis-Bey said. “Third grade is really full-blown elementary school.”

The Family English Initiative allows kindergarten and first grade students to learn English alongside their family members.

Kids can also learn coding, game design, robotic and engineering during five weeks of STEM Summer in the City classes.

Another program, STEM Matters, offers older students a chance to attend summer camps and intern at sites like the Bronx Zoo, Queens County Farm Museum and Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

“STEM is important even if students are not interested in becoming a computer scientist or going to medical school,” said Curtis-Bey. “A strong foundation in math and science opens up opportunities in college and careers.”

Applications for most of the programs are due April 27. The deadline for STEM Matters is April 6. For more information go to schools.nyc.gov/Summer.