Due to systemic inequities, children in Beaver Falls elementary schools test lower on PSSAs than their peers in neighboring communities. Closed since mid-March, schools have moved to online learning, but many families in our Beaver Falls community did not have computers or affordable Wi-Fi. Without access to the schools' curriculum, there has been fear that the typical "summer slump" may become a "super slump" for Beaver Falls' neediest children. In response to this need, Neighborhood North is partnering with the Big Beaver Falls Area School District, the local library, and a local youth development organization, Trails Ministries, to provide intensive support for these children in the form of small group reading and math tutoring, weekly STEM programming, and family engagement activities. Neighborhood North plans to integrate our activities into the Trails Ministries' Hayes Summer Camp, which runs late June through August. Their summer camp normally includes in-person activities and visits to local organizations, which will not be possible this summer because of COVID-19 restrictions. Already a close partner, Trails Ministries works with families impacted by incarceration and their summer program specifically works with children living in public housing sites in Beaver Falls and several other towns throughout Beaver County. Working with the school district, we will use students’ DIBEL scores to identify a baseline, which will be repeated at the end of the summer. Our K-5th grade students will be broken into small groups by grade level to receive in-person reading tutoring twice a week by teachers from the local school. In addition, we have put together a cohort of junior and senior high school students to tutor our 3rd-5th graders in math skills once a week.
But tutoring alone is not enough. Studies have shown that parent engagement is essential to increasing a child's academic achievement and enthusiasm for learning. Neighborhood North's board (including 11 educators) has been trained by WQED/PBS in their parent engagement curriculum and will host activities with the cohort children and their parents. Food is always part of the family events, and through nonthreatening activities, we hope to share some digital literacy resources with parents that will equip them to be technology mentors for their children. We will host four families each week for in-person family engagement programs.
Neighborhood North will also provide weekly STEM experiments and Maker activities to help promote curiosity and expand student learning. We will deliver our STEM education through a real-time remote platform to all of the in-person camp locations throughout Beaver County to approximately 150 K-5th grade students. Additionally, a bin with all necessary materials and any additional instructions will be delivered to Trails Ministries for each location each week. This collaboration is exciting and will bring a great deal of benefit to the kids in our communities in Beaver County.
Neighborhood North will plan to provide continued support throughout the school year by extending the tutoring program and providing STEM/Maker activities to the students in this cohort as part of the after school programming at Trails Ministries. Additionally, Neighborhood North will facilitate Family Engagement dinners throughout the year. We are excited to be part of the learning ecosystem of the Beaver Falls community that is working towards creating greater equity for our learners. To help support this program, please sign up to volunteer or donate now.
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Honoring Fred Rogers, creator of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, "Won't You Be My Neighbor Day" is on March 20th. Neighborhood North will dedicate the full week of March 20-25 to exploring emotions through mask-making in the Maker Space, followed by stage or puppet show performances.