Summer Compass is a six-week, July-August academic experience for K-6 Cambridge public school children, offering a balance of classroom project-based academics, outdoor activities, and local excursions. The program brings together students with diverse abilities, cultures, and languages to build a community of summer scholars, incorporating inquiry and exploration to enhance learning both in and out of the classroom. The goal for all students is for them to enter school in the fall with a renewed confidence in their abilities and a readiness to learn, having maintained the knowledge that so many students lose over the course of a summer.
The program also provides a venue for learning for those Lesley University teacher candidates who opt for the summer experience. They co-teach in a classroom with a mentor teacher, who supervises the classroom and provides continuous coaching and support. They also have the expertise of a curriculum coordinator, inclusion specialist, and program director. This setting fosters an environment of learning and growth at every level.
The program builds on the decades-long partnership between Lesley University and Cambridge Public Schools, which collaborate throughout the year to secure space, resources, and scholarship funds and jointly plan the summer schedule, including selecting a program theme. Contributions to the program extend into the Cambridge community, where a variety of resources donate time and money to enable field trips to local establishments and supplies for activities.
In 2016, the theme was, fittingly, the Summer Olympics. The theme was pervasive throughout all six classrooms, each exploring through a variety of subjects and activities the essential question "how can we strengthen our body, mind and character to become our personal bests?" While each class explored this question in different ways, they all maintained a focus on development of grit, teamwork, and persistence. With the help of the community, learning extended beyond the classroom, as students were exposed to sports and field trips that extended their learning of what it takes to be an Olympic athlete.
August 11th marked one of the hottest days on record for the summer of 2016, yet the 96-degree weather didn't put a damper on the Summer Compass culminating event. Students, teachers, family and friends gathered on the school field to celebrate the success of the 131 participating scholars. Keeping with the Summer Olympics theme, the morning began with the Parade of Nations and students proudly marching their hand-crafted flags through the school hallways. Students proceeded between twin Olympic pillars and gathered on the field to the tune of the Olympic Anthem and the cheers of friends and family.
Under the beating rays of the sun, the final celebration continued as students navigated an obstacle course and competed in a javelin throw, balloon toss, and several relay races, showcasing their teamwork and perseverance. The morning concluded with the closing ceremonies, and each student received a gold medal. And while the final celebration signified the end of the program, the Summer Compass experience itself provided a trajectory towards the continued academic success for each and every student.
As for the Lesley teacher candidates, the day signaled the end of the summer part of their practicum, which they will finish in the fall. One candidate, Kathryn Dunlevy, said, "Summer Compass gave me the opportunity to work in a school setting that was different from the traditional. Throughout the 6 weeks, I was able to adjust, modify and be flexible with all of my curriculum while also learning to better develop skills to meet diverse needs."