Digital learning aims to prevent ‘summer slide’

Developed by EverFi in partnership with Major League Baseball, new program helps students retain math and English skills while not in school.  

By Dave Werstine –

As a school-aged kid, the rites of summer include hanging out with friends, going to the movies, eating junk food, playing baseball, swimming, and the list goes on and on.

One clear omission from that list is studying. Summertime is just about anything except school.

Yet times are changing, and The Salvation Army is at the forefront of helping elementary school-aged children keep pace with their studies and learn about making good choices.

And maybe the nicest part, it takes just minutes a day.

The Salvation Army Digital Learning Program—in partnership with EverFi and through a grant from Target—is offering a pair of summer-learning programs at more than 200 centers across the country.

The Summer Slugger program is a home run for fourth- and fifth-graders. Instead of sliding safely into home plate this summer, students in the 18-week program will slide safely into the next grade.

Summer Slugger, developed by EverFi in partnership with Major League Baseball, is designed to help students retain math and English skills while not in school and prevent the “summer slide.”

According to EverFi, 75 percent of students in the U.S. do not participate in summer-learning programs. That results in 2.6 months of math skills being lost on average over the summer, and six weeks re-learning those skills when school begins again in the fall. It also contributes to a 66 percent income-based achievement gap by the beginning of high school.

To combat those losses, Summer Slugger is an interactive online learning experience that prepares youth of all backgrounds to enter the next school year on track. Students engage with content—including units of measure, place value, arithmetic, geometry, spelling, phonemic awareness, vocabulary and comprehension—that reinforces key foundational and procedural skills while enjoying the freedom and motivation of a baseball-themed, gamified learning experience.

Hall of Famer and Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre knows a thing or two about “summer slide,” more like “spring slide” for the former four-time World Series-winning manager of the New York Yankees.

“We had this one thing that we always told the players: ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it,’” Torre told “They were sharp when the season ended, and the thing about playing baseball, and really about life, is that you want to learn something every day.

“When our players go home in the offseason, they need to work,” he said. “We tell the players to make sure they stay sharp. They can still practice. They can still run. They can still keep their bodies in shape.”

And now, students can keep their minds sharp, too. And it only takes 20 minutes a week.

“We are passionate about the Summer Slugger program,” said Alina Hamden, the Director of Global Partnerships at EverFi, noting that 201 Salvation Army centers are using it this summer across the nation. “With our partner, Major League Baseball, we can prepare students of all backgrounds to enter the school year prepared.

“The beauty of our classes is that they are all flexible,” she said. “They are not forced or super academic. We want them to be fun and interactive. We want students to come back.”

Healthier Me, designed for first- through fourth-graders, is much the same—online, interactive and fun. And it’s aimed at another void in many school systems: health and wellness.

Ninety-seven percent of elementary school teachers believe nutrition education is important, according to a Journal of Education and Practice article. Yet, there is little, if any, curriculum built around nutrition, and, meanwhile, schools’ physical-education programs continue to erode.

That has created a double-edged sword, but Healthier Me is a way to help bring health-and-wellness education to students, especially young, formative minds.

The health-related choices students learn to make when they’re young can have a lasting impact on their lifetime well-being, happiness, and academic success, yet 96 percent of elementary schools are unable to provide daily physical education, according to EverFi. Healthier Me is an innovative digital course that arms elementary school students with the tools to make healthy, informed decisions when it comes to nutrition and fitness.

In Healthier Me, students embark on adventures through interactive games with a spunky monster sidekick named Chester. From choosing how to get to school to creating a well-balanced cafeteria lunch to learning the benefits of physical activity, students experiment with true-to-life scenarios to achieve positive wellness outcomes.

Again, it takes less than 30 minutes, and was created to help even the youngest of elementary school students move through the program and flourish.

“The course teaches critical skills that aren’t usually taught in the classroom,” Hamden said.. “The students are not graded. They are offered helpful hints (if needed) to help direct them to the right outcomes. We want this to be fun.”

Both programs are aligned to educational standards—Summer Slugger with Common Core and state standards, and Healthier Me with National Health Education Standards and USDA dietary guidelines.

“We are really happy with our partnership with The Salvation Army and Target,” Hamden said of the Digital Learning Program. “We are happy to be impacting youth. The results have been phenomenal.”

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