Summit54 Takes Learning Outside

We are all faced with challenges related to COVID-19, yet for young children in their formative years, the negative toll related to school closures is immeasurable. In elementary school, children learn far more than reading and math. Essential social skills such as sharing, teamwork and problem solving are developed through social interaction.

Summit54 is providing opportunities for children to receive outdoor tutoring in small groups throughout the lower Roaring Fork Valley. The organization has a nine-year history of providing free summer academic and life enrichment opportunities. In total, more than 5,500 students have benefited from its programming.  

Its keystone program is Summer Advantage, a program the 501c3 sponsors in partnership with the Roaring Fork School District (RFSD) which serves the Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt communities. That program, which historically operates inside three schools, needed to be cancelled due to Covid-19, just one month prior to its start date.

Summit54 quickly pivoted to develop, implement and fund an outdoor tutoring program for small groups called Summer Success. The free five-week program provided childcare for dual working parents and academic support, social interaction, nutritious food, exercise and fun for approximately 200 kindergarten through fourth grade students. It also provided employment for 50 educators.

When the RFSD announced that the start of school would be online, many parents and several teachers reached out to Summit54 asking if the charity could continue the tutoring concept into the fall. Summit54 modified the summer program around the District’s online schedule to provide after-school free tutoring using local parks in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. The goal of the fall program was to support the District’s online learning curriculum and provide social interaction for students. 

Both the summer and fall programs received overwhelmingly positive responses. For example, Roaring Fork School Teacher Jeanine King said, “The students loved coming each day — they were excited to see their friends and learn, and they were incredibly engaged.”

The programs grouped approximately 10 students with a licensed teacher and teaching assistant, allowing the tutors to work with students one on one and be attentive to the unique needs of each child. Learning outside, with opportunities for play, created a wonderful balance for children and educators. Teachers found the absence of walls did not distract students, rather being outside provided unique learning opportunities not available inside a classroom. 

While health and safety remain of utmost concern, Summit54 has demonstrated it is possible to provide in-person learning and socialization opportunities in outdoor settings.  Summit54, with the help of community members such as Alpine Bank, will continue to support young children in our community by finding innovative solutions during these trying times.

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