ROCKLAND — Regional School Unit 13 has been prioritizing the use of federal American Rescue Plan funds to support summer learning for students across the district.

This free summer programming began districtwide for students entering first through ninth grade last year and provides 16 days of engaging learning opportunities (four weeks of four days each week) through July.

RSU 13 recognizes how impactful the pandemic has been not only on district staff and students, but on the families as well, and this became part of the rationale for dedicating energy and effort to running free summer programming that allows students additional time to learn and parents some additional time to work for the past two years.

The district hopes to continue summer programming through the life of the grant funds, which will include the next two years as well.  If the success and interest continues from there, the district hopes to develop a sustainable plan for a low cost summer programming option for families.

The overarching summer programming goal is as follows: To provide students with a safe and enriching learning environment where they can take advantage of engaging hands-on learning opportunities and real-life learning experiences in order to prevent summer slide and continue to build meaningful relationships with their peers and caring adults within their school.  Skills to be elevated include skills outlined in the guiding principles noted in the following “4 C’s” — Communication and Collaboration; Creativity and Problem-Solving; Citizenship /Community-Building; Critical Thinking.

Last year when parents were asked in a family survey at the end of programming what they would tell others about the program, they shared: “Kids are learning but this is extremely beneficial for those kids that struggle with every day text book learning. I really enjoyed the hands-on part of the program but also these kiddos got to see what we have right here in our great little community;” “The program was wonderful and just the right amount of fun and education to avoid the summer slide;” “My son was so enthusiastic about how wonderful his teachers were and how nice they were. It redeemed the “fun factor” of school for him after a challenging year. He is excited to go to school again!” and “It was a wonderful opportunity for children to spend time engaged in creative, non-traditional learning experiences, and adventures with fellow students. It was a great way for the kids to get to know other students in different classes, an opportunity that is rare in the day-to-day during regular school year.”

One staff member last year stated, “Thank you for giving our students the Summer Program…we have built more schema than I could have imagined.  The students dug for fossils and learned about chemical reactions…They discovered that the Asian Rock Crab is along our coastline…They were actual scientists…They had the opportunity to sit in the pilot’s seat of an airplane and not only learned about how important the job of a pilot is, but the mechanics, dispatch, and the mowing crew who have to keep the grass short so that wildlife do not put the aircraft in danger….Many had never been to a museum before and were vocal about that…I wanted to take the time and let you know that it was an incredible experience for all of us.”

One major highlight of the programming are the field trips and partnerships with local businesses and organizations students get to experience.  Summer and afterschool programming have been paving the way for increasing school and community partnerships.

South School Summer Camp is supporting 40 students from South School Elementary, entering first through fifth grades, Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Each week, students experience art with local teaching artist Susan Beebe, smoothie making, nature walks, build-it challenges, gardening, wacky slime making, sports, beach time, and weekly visits to The Coastal Children’s Museum with themes of geology, topography, marine life, and environmental awareness.

Thomaston Grammar School, Cushing Community School, and Ash Point Community School are supporting a total of 101 students, with 12 attending Cushing, 48 attending Thomaston, and 41 attending Ash Point Community School Mondays through Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Students entering kindergarten through fifth-grade in the coming year spend their summer mornings surrounded by peers, having opportunities to engage in a variety of activities. The programs are staffed fully by educational staff, teachers and ed techs, and each day of programming the schools either have fun home-based activities, a guest organization visit, or an engaging field trip. Partnerships include Herring Gut Coastal Science Center, Owl’s Head Transportation Museum, Center for Maine Contemporary Art and Farnsworth Art Museum, Cardinal Cove Mini Golf, Flagship Cinema, Mad Science of Maine, and Mr. Drew and his Exotic Animals.

“We are grateful to have such a vast array of local organizations with a deep commitment to student learning and growth right here in the Midcoast,” District Coordinator Laura LaPointe said. “Our partnerships help us to enrich the student experience and provide pathways to explore various interests, while also strengthening local pride and community connection. The 101 students participating in the district programming across TGS, CCS, and APCS this year were also supplied free breakfast and lunch all days of programming through RSU13.

“It was a collaborative effort that came together so spectacularly, a truly special experience we hope to continue in the future.”

The Flanagan Center Summer Experience Camp is supporting 30 students from Oceanside Middle School and Oceanside High School (incoming sixth through ninth-graders), Mondays through Thursdays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Each week, students engage with their community downtown and beyond, through engaging field trips to local organizations and businesses in areas of art, science, technology, cooking, outdoor exploration, and entrepreneurship. Weekly excursions have included visits to The Apprenticeshop, CMCA, Mid-Coast School of Technology, Friends of Maine Coastal Islands, WRFR Radio, Owls Head Transportation Museum, Sail, Power & Steam Museum, Aldermere Farms, Merryspring Nature Center, Farnsworth, Northern Vertical Rock Climbing and The Landing Place.

“It is no easy lift to coordinate food service, transportation, and staffing for this level of programming, but the district’s dedicated staff and the local partnering businesses and organizations continue to prioritize students,” the district stated.

Sarah Rogers, RSU 13’s 21st Century grant program coordinator, and Laura LaPointe, RSU 13’s afterschool and summer program coordinator, oversee summer programming and afterschool programming across the district. All programs are currently grant funded.

For even more pictures, visit the RSU #13 Afterschool Programs Facebook page.