This Mess is so Big – Addressing the COVID Slide in Learning

by | Aug 7, 2020 | Education | 0 comments

And this mess is so big – finding ways to slow the COVID Slide

Before COVID, narrowing education gaps was hard, with baby steps made from year-to-year. Summer was a great catch-up time for academics. We knew the mess was so big and so deep and so tall. Then it was time to plan Summer Camp 2020 which seemed to be unworkable with all the COVID protocols.

backyard lunch and learn doing a volcano science experiment

Whole lava learning

Summer Camp normally enriches campers for half-a-day and focuses on academics the second half-a-day with healthy snacks and lunches included. In this way, the Summer Slide in learning is measurably reduced from year-to-year.


How I wish we had something to do!

Everyone knows the lead up to this year’s education problem. Enter 2020 and Coronavirus. It’s been the year that the spring semester’s home learning was such an A1 disaster for many students that they referred to the time off of schooling as Summer One and Summer Two. Dr. Seuss nailed the common experiences of our neighbors:

So we sat in the house.

We did nothing at all.

So all we could do was to

Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit!

And we did not like it.

Not one little bit.


SO, an outdoor alternative to 14 years of Summer Camp was needed. What could be provided to students in grades K through 8 that aligned with COVID protocols, which at that time prohibited indoor gatherings of 10 or more? The plan had to:

learning language with drawing

Emoji creation and Language Arts

  1. help students maintain some of the learning they were losing,
  2. make sure students had healthy lunches and snacks,
  3. provide overwhelmed, overworked parents a needed break, and
  4. give students a head-start experience with the protocols they would face in schools in the fall.


We saw him pick up all the things that were down – combatting the COVID Slide

SO, while high school students enjoyed a full Workforce Development program for eight weeks, for our students in grades K through 8 a new trick was pulled out of our hats called Backyard Lunch & Learn, where neighborhood kids came onsite for:

  • An hour-and-a-half outdoor program on weekdays
  • Outdoor hand washing stations used on entry
  • Family learning pods with assigned tables and materials spaced 6’ apart
  • Two hours of math enrichment per week, multi-age format
  • Two hours of reading/language arts enrichment per week, same format
  • A summer reading incentive program
  • One hour of science, with most lessons zeroing in on health
  • Staff wearing masks and gloves
  • Daily lunches courtesy of Polk County Schools
  • Healthy snacks provided weekly by kidsPACK and daily by a variety of donors – they really got to eat the rainbow!
  • Lots of Vitamin D and lots of good, learning fun


There were numerous obstacles to overcome. Many former Academic Enrichment Program students were cautious about participating or could not be located. Then there were heat advisories; rainy mornings; searches for shade; and the challenges of keeping students engaged outdoors near the sounds of a major highway. The staff’s morning cheer was Ready. Set. Sweat! Considerable investment was made in outdoor classroom materials, cool drinks, sunscreen, and multi-age learning units.

Building things out of fruits and veggies

When fruits and veggies meet STEM

Praise the Lord! Hats off to Education Director Christina Allen and staff for finding a way to pick up so many of the things that were down when there was the temptation to pack up and go home. It was a strange but significant summer of mission alignment, staff adaptability, and growth in trusting God that also lifted the burdens of parents and the school system and helped each student narrow, just a bit, their individual COVID Slide in learning.

Donors, you were there making it all happen. Your funding continues to place you solidly in these students’ corners. Thank you!


Kim Schell, Chief Operating Officer


P.S. The summer also ended with the Lakeland community providing backpacks and uniforms that were customized according to the needs of 100 students attending 11 schools and choosing from three different learning options at each. The sorting room was something else. But it is behind us and students are better prepared for the many challenges they face this fall. God is faithful.