Combating Summer Learning Loss, One Meal at a Time

Published July 31, 2014 13:41


There was a time when heading back to school in September was tough for Shaylah Rivard.

“It was harder for my brain to function because I wasn’t really learning over the summertime,” she says.

That all changed after Rivard enrolled in the CSI program – which stands for Community School Investigators – a free five-week academic program designed to combat summer learning loss. This is the 10-year-old’s second year in the program.

Tom Ali, 12, agrees returning to school after a long summer break is easier thanks to CSI.

“It wasn’t scary because I learned stuff from CSI. And when I got back to school it wasn’t hard. I got it all,” he says.

Of course, CSI isn’t all about academic studies; students focus on math and literacy in the morning and in the afternoon they participate in activities like sports and field trips.

“It’s just really nice to come here and play. I like CSI, it’s really fun,” Ali says. “I like playing basketball and soccer. And I’m improving in my math.”

CSI has been around since 2005 and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg (BGCW) took over operation in 2010. This year about 1,000 students from 16 schools are participating at the program’s 15 sites, many of which are in less affluent areas of the city.

Summer learning loss is a particular concern for children living in poverty, who have fewer opportunities to participate in camps and summer programs.“We’ve had teachers tell us that with kids who participate in CSI, they see a difference when they come back in September. It doesn’t take [students] as long to remember and they are on track,” says Robyn Peters, BGCW’s Manager of Children’s Programs.

Food is also a big part of the program and students receive two full meals each day at CSI. A Nourishing Potential grant from The Winnipeg Foundation helps support the purchase of healthy food.

“We serve breakfast and [… it gives] them the energy they need to participate in their activities, and helps them in their growth,” Peters says. “We focus on the nutritional aspect to teach them healthy eating habits as they might not get that at home.”

Without these meals, the program would not be able to run for full days or offer such a rich learning experience.

“We would probably just offer a program that ran in the morning. And it would not be the program that it is,” Peters says.

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