Date August 23, 2023
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Photos: D’Abate Elementary School summer program keeps kids learning, active

Offered by the school in partnership with Brown University’s Swearer Center, a five-week summer camp at William D’Abate Elementary School in Providence bolsters learning opportunities outside of the school year.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — When a new school year starts, teachers commonly dedicate time to reviewing prior lessons to help students brush up on vital foundational concepts and skills.

But for teachers at William D’Abate Elementary School in Providence, summer learning loss is less of a worry, Principal Brent Kermen says. About a quarter of the students enrolled at the Providence public school take part in its summer learning program — a feat Kermen says is more than double the participation level most schools would consider successful. As a result, D’Abate students often start the new school year with confidence and a strong foundation in core academic subjects like reading and math.

“School districts across the country are now expanding summer school programs and other extended learning opportunities to help address the learning loss we incurred during the pandemic,” Kermen said. “At D’Abate, we’re proud that we’ve been able to offer summer school to our students for more than a decade, and it’s positively impacted their readiness for the school year.”

The school’s summer program — operated in partnership with students, faculty and staff from Brown University — creates a safe, structured and fun summer camp environment. D’Abate students, from rising first through sixth graders, continue to learn, explore and grow academically, socially and creatively through educational games, activities and field trips.

D’Abate school leaders first teamed up with Brown’s Swearer Center in 2000 to welcome undergraduate students to the Olneyville school to tutor kids and run after-school clubs. Since then, the partnership has grown to involve roughly 150 Brown student volunteers each year, who support more than 200 elementary school students through after-school programming, in-class tutoring and a summer camp. The summer and after-school enrichment opportunities — which include everything from homework help and arts and crafts to competitive chess, robotics and soccer — are supported by federal funding and are coordinated by ONE Neighborhood Builders, a nonprofit community development leader based in Providence that joined Brown and D’Abate in 2019 to support the partnership.

The summer months can be a prime time to provide extra educational and enrichment opportunities, and boosting out-of-school learning time is the mission that the partnership was founded on, said Dilania Inoa, the Swearer Center’s senior manager of community partnerships. Inoa, a Providence native, has directed the extended learning program, known as the D’Abate Community School, since the partnership’s inception more than two decades ago.

“As much as we can, we try to keep the school doors open with extra programming that benefits the children,” Inoa said. “Our goal with the D’Abate Community School is to extend learning beyond the school day and year.”

The summer learning program runs in July and August for five weeks, offering a full day of learning and care for as many as 125 students at no cost to families. The daily curriculum — led by a team of teachers, including Brown undergraduates — features two hours of instruction in math and literacy, followed by lessons and activities in social studies, science, art, music and physical fitness. The camp’s themed weeks, including “Rhody Week” and “Ocean Life,” guide daily lessons and activities such as journal prompts, story selections, art projects and field trips, which this summer included outings to Roger Williams Park and the New England Aquarium, among others.

Diana Olmos Gonzalez, a Brown senior who has volunteered at D’Abate since her first year on campus, is one of six Brown undergraduates who served as teachers and classroom assistants this summer. She said volunteering at the school creates meaningful learning opportunities for both D’Abate and Brown students.

“I love that the D’Abate students just love to learn,” Gonzalez said. “Teaching them is exciting and fun because they ask questions that I honestly would have never thought of — every day, I’m learning with them, too, and I love sharing that experience with them.”