A dozen kindergarteners breath in deeply and stretch their arms toward the ceiling as elementary school teacher Margeaux Coyne leads them through a quick yoga routine ahead of the morning’s lesson.
“We’re going to start with math today,” she says brightly before launching into a story about the math adventures of Rob and Bob.
Although school is out for the summer, these children are part of a new initiative aimed at giving low-income students additional learning opportunities outside of the regular school year.
The program, Impact360 Summer Success, is a new summer learning program that launched on June 18, 2018, on the College of Charleston campus. The result of a collaboration between the College’s After School & Summer Learning Resource Center, the CofC affiliated nonprofit Kids on Point (formerly Chucktown Squash) and more than 15 other education nonprofits, Impact360 supports 150 students in grades K-12 from Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties. The six-week program aims to enrich students scholastically as well as socially and emotionally.
“Our belief is that it’s important to take a whole child approach,” says Rachael James, director of the After School & Summer Learning Resource Center. “We’re not just zeroing in on academics – that by itself is not going to help these children be successful in life. They need all these other skills and they need real-life experiences to build these skills.”
That philosophy was evident on a recent morning when the students started the day enthusiastically chanting “good morning” and later dancing excitedly to a song about loving, laughing and being strong.
Students were referred to the program through the various partner nonprofits, many of which offer academic support to at-risk students during the school year. James says the impetus for Impact360 was a desire to extend that support to students beyond the regular school year.
In addition to targeted academic activities for literacy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects under the supervision of certified teachers, students visit a swimming pool one day each week along with weekly yoga classes among other physical activities. There are field trips, too, to places such as the Gibbes Museum of Art, the Medical University of South Carolina Urban Farm and the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History at the College. Other activities include boatbuilding with the Lowcountry Maritime Society and an excursion with the Audubon Society to Charleston’s Hampton Park for a day of bird-watching. Camp counselors, many of whom are CofC students, also support instruction and activities throughout the day.
“We will be evaluating academic growth,” says James, “but our main focus is on growing life skills, cooperation, perseverance and engagement. We want to see the kids enjoying themselves and feeling supported by adults.”
Featured image: Impact360 campers strike a surfer pose during yoga.