WALLINGFORD — A team of school district staff is tackling the problem of summer learning loss by creating family scavenger hunts, coordinated through a phone app.
Three curriculum coordinators—Christie Madancy for math, Kate O’Donnell for science and technology and Tony Loomis for wellness—have planned weekly activities that incorporate their subject area.
Madancy said the voluntary activities were created to help combat “the summer slide” – when students lose knowledge and academic skills during summer break.
“We’ve always had a summer reading program,” she said, “that’s been pretty formalized and run at each building, in conjunction with the (Wallingford Public Library), but we never really had anything formal in other areas.”
The activities are available through GooseChase, an online scavenger hunt app.
O’Donnell said she came across the app last summer and has designed summer STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) around scavenger hunts throughout town.
“Families would go to different locations and do different types of design challenges,” she said, like building a catapult or a tower.
Loomis said he added physical education to keep kids motivated about movement and excited about playing over the summer.
“That’s their job over the summer – to play,” he said.
According to a landmark study by the American Educational Research Association, summer learning loss sets students back about one month in learning, and affects math skills more than reading. The negative effect also increases with each grade level.
“Our biggest goal is to make it engaging,” Madancy said, “and make it so that families felt like it was activities families could do together.”
The first GooseChase activity is a hike that includes things to look for from a math and science perspective.
“There’s a lot of anxieties out there in our content areas,” Madancy said, “so to show families how they can be having these conversations and supporting math and science while they’re doing fun family activities is one of our big goals.”
The GooseChase app sends out notifications when there are new activities.
Future activities will incorporate local businesses like Words on Wood, Holiday Cinemas 14 and the Wallingford Garden Market.
Loomis included places that are focused on physical activity, like the Wallingford Family YMCA, the Parks and Recreation Department and Sky Zone, the indoor trampoline park.
The activities are designed to be flexible. Families can participate in all of them, or can skip some when they go on vacation.
There’s also an option to upload photos to the app of families taking part in an activity.
For the final activity, a STEM night is planned for 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 19 at the Oakdale Theatre, where local manufacturers can interact with families.
Last summer, 86 local families signed up for GooseChase.
“We want to exceed that,” O’Donnell said.