Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore and St. Louis ran summer programs that highlighted how learning and exploring together could yield beneficial results. Many promising concepts of the Boys Hope Girls Hope Network Strategic Plan were at work.
The Network plan focuses on the expansion and launch of Academies and the power of scholars learning by doing — united by a re-tooled My Road curriculum. Strategic growth will be realized by adding cohorts of scholars in the same age groups and focusing on group activities to supplement individualized attention. A new grant by the John Templeton Foundation will further help Boys Hope Girls Hope test how this approach can impact curiosity, perseverance, and purpose. Outcomes over the summer in Baltimore and St. Louis were encouraging.
Baltimore Tests the Waters
For Baltimore, whose programming is currently exclusively residential, the summer offered a unique opportunity to test the waters for what is hoped to be the launch of their first out-of-school-time Academy in 2023.
“After two summers of COVID, our scholars had felt somewhat isolated from the community,” said Arlene Hackbarth, executive director, Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore. “With our goal of launching an Academy, we realized that this summer was a great time to explore new things and encourage scholars to learn about the world.”
The Baltimore team designed activities that scholars could do together on-site as well as out in the community from June to August. “We focused on how to provide education outside of the classroom,” Hackbarth said.
Academic time took on a STEM focus, including a Bio Bootcamp with Johns Hopkins University and a three-part health series with Siemens Healthineers, complete with an opportunity for scholars to learn how to conduct X-rays through virtual reality goggles.
Scholars tended a garden together to learn life preparedness, stayed fit by swimming at the local Y, and did community service for Our Daily Bread hot meal program.
Once a week, there was a learning field trip, which included the beach in Ocean City, Zoo, Washington, D.C. monuments, Baltimore Ravens training camp, and college visits for rising seniors.
The mix of group activities and individualized attention yielded strong results. “You really see all our scholars have bonded even more by doing activities together,” Hackbarth said. “The scholars also have formed stronger relationships with our team, who in turn felt very fulfilled about their role.”
St. Louis Refines and Recruits
In putting together Camp in the Community this past summer, the affiliate saw an opportunity to build upon the learnings of their Fall 2021 Academy re-launch with a pilot of 10 students while growing weekly capacity to 32.
“The summer experience gave us a really good understanding of what it will look like to have 30 to 40 Academy scholars on the campus,” said Ryan Hanewinkel, Boys Hope Girls Hope of St. Louis’ Academy program manager. “We were able to make sure programming is diversified for each age group and how to align staffing accordingly.”
Boys Hope Girls Hope of St. Louis’ Academy focuses on the pillars of academics, community, and culture. Hanewinkel said: “It’s all about helping scholars grow academically, creating a space for them to develop healthy long-enduring community, and providing opportunities for them to explore culture in a way that is relevant to their own identity.”
During the school year, the St. Louis Academy has four one-hour blocks, starting with academics and homework completion, enrichment time featuring educational games and activities, mealtime, and physical activity such as basketball, kickball, and more.
Balancing structure and fun was the key, according to Hanewinkel. “Our goal is to ensure that scholars never feel like they are repeating the school day.”
Over the summer, the St. Louis team further leveraged this spirit of learning by doing by getting the scholars out in the community. The camp operated Monday through Thursday from June to early August.
Each week had a new theme: animals, food, water, outdoors, STEM, and art. The field trips were a big hit to help the scholars bond and learn together: from a STEM-related Maker’s Shop at the Magic House to horseback riding and learning how to cook at a local restaurant.
“We had a lot of students who had first-time experiences in their lives,” said Hanewinkel. Additionally, he indicated the experience has helped the St. Louis affiliate recruit eight-to-10 new scholars for the fall program.