All-Day Summer STEM Camp at Evergreen Elementary

Students practiced skills, engaged in learning and discovered more in pilot program.


Representatives from Communities in Schools of Peninsula and the Children’s Home Society of Washington described a successful collaborative effort delivering an all-day summer program in a presentation to members of the Gig Harbor North Rotary Club at its Aug. 6 meeting. 

The club provided $7,000 for the pilot program. Nearly half the Rotarians in the club volunteered as reading mentors and lunch helpers for 35 students enrolled in the three-week STEM camp at Evergreen Elementary School. At the end of each week, the club provided students with two new grade level reading books to take home.

“What I would say to anyone in the community is how impactful it is for us to come in, run programs at the school, so that kids are safe and parents feel comforted that their kids are at their home school,” CISP Program Director Laurel Schultz said.

“Many teachers will tell you that kids lose three to four months, because they haven’t been reading, they haven’t been practicing those skills at home over summer,” Schultz said. “The social skills are just as important as the academics. Art, science, keeping kids engaged is really awesome.”

CISP runs half-day summer enrichment programs at Vaughn Elementary, Minter Creek Elementary and Harbor Heights Elementary schools.

“We heard from the principal at Evergreen (Hugh Maxwell) that he wanted an all-day program. He spoke from experience and said half-days didn’t work for parents at his school,” Schultz said. “But we didn’t have the capacity to do all day. It takes planning, money and volunteers; it takes a lot. Children’s Home Society of Washington stepped up with us, and our friends from Food Backpacks 4 Kids had a little chunk of separate money.”

“Together we worked out a deal where we could provide the kids free breakfast, literacy support in the morning, outdoor time, and they’d have an awesome lunch. In the afternoon they would do fun activities and run around and then have a really good time with CHSW staff. For some STEM education we would loop in some science,” Schultz said. "I want to do it every day."

“PSD funded a full-time paraeducator for the program and, combined with funding from Rotary, inspired us to do more,” CHSW Program Manager Gina Cabiddu said. “Laurel and I said, ‘Let’s take this a step further.’

“We each gave up half of our budget for this summer enrichment program to be able to bring in an Evergreen STEM teacher to be there with these kids all day so they can get excited about science, technology, engineering, math—these are the careers of the future,” Cabiddu said.

“What I’m so excited about is that the kids who are coming are feeling so good about their skills and so good about coming into the school over the summer,” Schultz said. “They want to stay, not just all day, but all summer. That to me is amazing. This has been off the charts successful.”

“CISP and CHSW have been partnering for years. Now we’re just going deeper,” she said. “How else can we help kids in the community?”

“Imagine what summer must be like for a single parent with a $15 an hour job,” Bob Anderson, president of Gig Harbor North Rotary said. “Your kid is home alone unless you can afford someone to sit with him or her the whole day. How much does it mean to that family to be able to have not only a free resource, but a free educational resource for that child? This is what we’re providing.”;

Scott Wunsch of Longbranch, whose 6-year-old daughter Aniya attended the summer program, said, “She comes home exhausted and talks about her day all night long. The extra reading and activities they do are so developmental.”

“I want to come back next summer,” Aniya said. Her visiting sister, Ariana, 5, said, “I want to come too.” “This year we only opened it up to our K-3 students we already knew needed the extra literacy support,” Tricia Endsley, the CISP site coordinator at Evergreen said. “We had 35 students enrolled within a week, and a dozen on the waiting list once people heard about it.”

Cabiddu said she asked one student if there was anything that she wanted to change about the summer camp, and the student replied, “I want to do it every day. Monday through Sunday.”