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Celebrating a Summer of Learning

By Thomas Azzarella, Alaska Afterschool Network Director

This summer thousands of kids checked out books at libraries, learned to fly fish, built robots, volunteered in their communities, got connected to their culture, and explored Alaska’s wilderness while participating in summer programs across Alaska. Not only did these summer programs give kids a fun and safe summer vacation, they inspired learning, strengthened resiliency, and supported working families.AK Map

Youth programs promoted summer learning by engaging children in a variety of exciting activities in order to prevent the summer learning loss. Summer learning loss occurs when youth do not actively participate in learning opportunities, such as reading, the arts and recreational activities.

Kids who are not engaged in enrichment activities throughout the summer are more likely to start the school year behind their classmates. By offering opportunities for youth to develop new skills, work cooperatively with their peers, and get connected to caring adults in their communities, these programs help build resiliency. In addition, working parents were able to stay focused at work while knowing their kids were in a safe and nurturing environment.

We at the Alaska Afterschool Network, a program of Alaska Children’s Trust, celebrate and commend all that our kids have achieved this summer by taking a look at these six outstanding summer programs from across Alaska.

21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) E.A.S.T.

Fairbanks star.jpegFairbanks, Alaska

21st century.jpegThe 21st CCLC E.A.S.T. offered summer adventures to students by integrating the subjects of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM). The program was offered free of charge for students attending Denali, Hunter and Joy Elementary 21st CCLC Programs within the Fairbanks North Star Borough School district.

Every morning during the summer program, students worked on inquiry-driven projects in their chosen field of study. Afternoons at the academy featured a variety of choices in shorter STEAM exploration classes, ranging from GPS scavenger hunts and physics experiments, to virtual reality photography and more.

The goal of the academy was to engage students in exciting, hands-on STEAM projects to build literacy in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), while also mitigating summer learning loss.

For more information:


(907) 590-3782

Echo Ranch Bible Camp

Juneau star.jpegJuneau, Alaska

Echo Ranch Bible Camp offered summer camp programs for kids and youth ages 7 to 18. The programs were nine weeks of camps – weeks full of activities, games, great conversations, and time for kids to think about life and where they’re headed.EchoRanch

Echo Ranch summer camps offer fun, exciting, healthy environments for kids, positive role models, activities specifically designed for their age group, time to hang out with friends, and the opportunity to learn about a God who loves them.

Zip lining, archery and horseback riding are just a few of the positive activities that the youth engage in during the summer. Many kids find their week at Echo Ranch to be a positive experience they look back on for years to come.

For more information:

(907) 789-3777

Bristol Bay Borough Parks and Recreation Department

BB star.jpegNaknek, Alaska

The Bristol Bay Borough Parks and Recreation Department’s summer program engaged kids with art project days, team-building sessions and science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) activities.Bristol Bay Park and Rec

The program included various outdoor enrichment activities to help keep the youth active. One of their most memorable outdoor adventures was during a beach walk, when they spotted more than a dozen beluga whales.

For their big field trip, the group was able to fly out to Brooks Camps in Katmai National Park for a day of adventure. This was the first time that many of them had been out to the falls.

In addition, the group volunteered their time and picked up trash around the community, visited the elders’ home, sent letters and goodies to deployed soldiers, and even visited their local fire and EMS department. All of the activities that the youth engaged in were geared to improve their summer learning.

For more information:

(907) 246-7665

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula

kenai star.jpegKenai, Alaska

Club members had an exciting summer at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula summer programs. On any given day, nearly 300 youth walked through the Club doors during the summer months.

Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion

Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion

Five of the Clubs in the Kenai area operated through the summer months. Kenai, Soldotna and Nikiski served youth Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m, and the teen programs operated during the afternoon and evening hours.

These programs fed kids through the state of Alaska summer federal meals programs, which ensured healthy meals were available to all kids under 18 who live in Kenai Peninsula communities.

Clubs provided high yield activities and targeted programs, which actively encouraged young people to attend more frequently, and also employed Five Key Elements for Positive Youth Development. These elements include a safe, positive environment; fun; supportive relationships; opportunities and expectations; and recognition.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula summer program is vital to the Kenai Peninsula community, providing youth access to high-quality summer learning experiences.

Through all of their programs, it was their goal to  ensure that every youth who walked through their doors was on track to graduate from high school on time with a plan for their future demonstrating good character and citizenship and living a healthy lifestyle.

For more information:

(907) 283-2682

Northeast Muldoon Boys & Girls Club

muldoon star.jpegAnchorage, Alaska

The Northeast Muldoon Boys and Girls Club kept their participants active throughout the entire summer with educational activities. B&G Club NE Muldoon 1.jpgTo promote such activity, the club went on field trips four out of five days of the week. On the non-field trip day, the club focused on academics to deter summer learning loss. The field trips ranged from visiting the park to fishing on the Kenai River.

The Boys and Girls Club enjoyed partnering with other organizations in order to optimize summer learning. Most recent partners included U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Soul River Inc.

Katrina Mueller from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service introduced and educated youth about fishing in hopes to get them excited about fish and wildlife. By getting youth enthusiastic about fishing, the service strived to inspire conservation of fish and wildlife, along with the lands and waters that support them.

NE Muldoon Fish.jpegIn addition, Soul River Inc. focused on the youth and fishing. The program connected inner city youth and U.S. military veterans to the outdoors through stimulating outdoor educational experiences such as fishing. These youth ultimately became leaders through the mentoring provided by the U.S. veterans. By having the Soul River youth work with the Boys and Girls Club members, they were able to reflect the mentoring that they received from the veterans and to develop as individuals.

Through all of these experiences, the Northeast Muldoon Boys and Girls Club promoted summer learning and provided opportunities for both the youth and community to benefit from.

For more information:

(907) 333-2582

The PEAK Program

sitka star.jpegSitka, Alaska

This summer, The PEAK Program (Playing. Enrichment. Art. Kids.) utilized project-based learning opportunities to help teach children how to use science, technology, engineering art and mathematics (STEAM) in real life.PEAK

This summer the youth who attended The PEAK Program had a variety of STEAM-focused activities to choose from. Programs included Outdoor Club, Star Wars Club, Scooby Doo, Harry Potter Magic Week, and Investigations and Spy Week. During the investigations week, youth engaged in investigating a staged crime scene that they were in charge of solving.

In addition to the weekly learning units, the students participated in different activities such as sewing, origami, obstacle courses, cooking, tool use, games and other various activities throughout Sitka. Through the instructive activities, The Peak Program was able to help children develop thinking skills, while also building friendships as well as a sense of community.

For more information:

(907) 747-6224

Thomas Azzarella is the director of the Alaska Afterschool Network, a program of Alaska Children’s Trust. The network is the only statewide organization dedicated to increasing afterschool and expanded learning opportunities for school-age children, youth, and families in Alaska.




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