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Thursday, February 28, 2013

DC SCORES summer camps keep DC youth's minds and bodies active when such opportunities are lacking


Written by Molly Fessler

Ahh, summertime. No school, no worries, right?

As it turns out, there’s plenty to be concerned about come June, July and August. The summer months, while cherished for their seemingly endless free time, have proved hazardous for the health and academic prospects of DC youth. What appears to be three months of freedom and playtime actually turns out to be long stretches of solitude, inactivity and screentime, particularly for children from low income families. DC kids without financial resources experience a largely unstructured summertime that results in decreased reading ability and an increased propensity for weight gain.

Just how dire is the situation?

A 2011 RAND Corporation report found that among low-income students, the summer months reflected a two-month loss in reading achievement and comprehension. Math, spelling, and study skills were also affected. Unfairly, these losses among students of the low-income community were contrasted with small gains in reading ability noted in students from middle- to high-income backgrounds.

Even worse? These losses have been found to be cumulative, so students who fall behind one summer, may never catch up.

When it comes to physical activity, the summer provokes even more anxiety. A 2007 study, published by the American Journal of Public Health, reported that students gain weight twice as quickly during their vacation months. A study from the same year, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that gains made in cardiovascular fitness and weight management during the school year were largely lost when not continued during the summer recess.

Kids who don’t have a safe space to play, or who lack supervision necessary to go outside, end up languishing in front of the TV or computer. Access to low-nutrient, high-calorie food may not be restricted during the day, and less movement and oversight lead to greater weight gain.

So what are summer-lovers to do? Throw in the (beach) towel?

Thankfully, the news isn’t all bad. Summer camps and programs have been proven effective in stalling or stopping this “summer slide” and keeping kids ready to learn and excel come September.

Even better? DC SCORES provides three free camps to DC youth that combine soccer and the arts, addressing the issues of academic engagement and physical health during what would otherwise some pretty lazy summer days.

This summer, with your help, over 200 kids will benefit from the opportunities provided by these camps.

During March’s Couch to Camp Campaign, we need to raise $10,000 in individual donations to combat summer academic loss and weight gain, and provide deserving DC kids with a summer of fun and opportunity.

The research is clear, but that doesn’t mean we’re helpless to do anything about it.

When you support the Couch to Camp Campaign, you support DC youth. You’ll be contributing to better outcomes for their future, and for our future as a community.

Let’s make it a healthy summer for DC kids — one with absolutely nothing to worry about.


JAMA study, 2007
School-Based Fitness Changes Are Lost During the Summer Vacation

RAND Foundation Study, 2011
Importance/benefit of summer programs, losses accrued without intervention

American Journal Public Health, 2007
Increase in BMI, weight gain during summer months.

Journal Youth Adolescence, 2007
Parent and self report study on improvements in positive identity, social skills, pre/post camp experience

Time Magazine article, 2010
The Case Against Summer Vacation

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