A Summer Project
As a public education teacher there is always a need to supplement income. So I along with a co-worker friend of mine, decided to try our hands at starting up an academic summer camp for struggling students. We came up with the idea two months before school was to end so we were really anxious to get the ball rolling. Outside of our intention to supplement our summer income, our primary purpose for the camp was to provide learning activities that would increase student skills in reading comprehension and math skills. We both had been working in the Special Education field and felt that our background and experience would be beneficial for those students who were struggling in these areas or simply wanted to get ahead for the upcoming school year.
We weren’t sure who or how many would be interested, so we created a mini brochure introducing the camp and its purpose. We included contact information so the parents could call, express interest and reserve a spot. We would later call them back to confirm acceptance and invite them to a formal orientation. In the meantime, we had to book a location, as we expected a high response. Due to our very limited budget, we needed to find a location that would either be free or charge us no more than $ 100 per month for rent. We were very lucky. Our local city hall building had small rooms available for community functions and would only charge $75 per month. So with our location secured we were ready to start accepting our summer participants.
To our surprise we had over 60 interested participants. We soon realized though that our location would not hold all 60 at once. Therefore we needed to change our plan to have a full day summer camp into a half day summer camp with two sessions of no more than 20 students per session. Each session was to last for two and half hours with a lunch break in between. The cost per session was $25 per session for 4 days per week, which yielded $100 dollars per child. So the payoff for the two of us was pretty nice. The parents seem to think that the price was reasonable too, compared to other summer camps. After it was all said and done we ended up with an average of 40 student participants over a six week period. Some opted for a full day program due to work schedules and others tapered off due to vacation trips or financial hardship.
Other issues that we needed to address were lack of materials for the various levels of students that we acquired. Part of this was due to lack of initial start-up funding and limited time to really assess the needs of our participants. We were also initially counting on having the ability to use several computers with internet access. We had come across several online learning sites that we wanted to incorporate into the curriculum to supplement our lack in materials. At the very last minute we were told that the city would not be able to provide these computers as originally planned. We also noticed that towards the end of each session, there were several of our student participants who needed time to be active (outside) play, due to developmental or attention deficit concerns. Unfortunately, the facility did not have an outside play area, so we had to revise our lesson schedules again to include some indoor fun activities. That revision turned out to be a positive one though, because it gave the participants something fun to look forward to at the end of the session. It also gave us a mental break and more time to preplan for our afternoon session.
Overall my co-worker and I were pleased with the outcome. We did not really do an in-depth survey for our parents at the end but we did ask if they would be interested in returning the following summer. Most replied that they would especially for the price that was set. Others wanted to know if would be able to do a full day and some were interested in having their children attend field trips. Just about all the children said they wanted to return, but many wanted to take trips to the movies and have a pizza day! We think this response was prompted by our end of the summer pizza party.
If we had to do it all over again, we would definitely take more time to plan and gather resources. We also needed a back- up contingency plan for the failed computer idea. We eventually used some of the profits we made to buy materials to support hands-on activities, but we weren’t able to do that until 3-4 weeks in to our summer program. It would have also been helpful had we been able to assess each participant to quickly identify specific skills that needed to be addressed. We did do a brief survey intake from the parents who identified the weak subject areas, but a more in-depth survey would have led to better lesson plans and activities from the start. As time went on though, we were able to identify some individual needs of the students rather quickly. Although the facility seemed a little small at times, the city staff was very flexible, friendly and helpful. They even helped the first week with directing traffic and setting up cones, so the parents could get in an out the drop off area without any problems. Although we would like to find larger facility, we couldn’t beat that price plus they provided free advertising in their marque, newsletter and website.
Our next project endeavor can be improved by finding and taking time to effectively assess our student participants before the start of program. A simple needs assessment form can be filled out by the parents which would identify the specific learning needs of their child. This way we will ensure that our learning activities are confirming and addressing identified needs (Portny Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, & Sutton, 2008 ). We would also benefit greatly by planning for the unknown or examining our limitations imposed by various needs, such as budget, spacing, and accounting for holiday and vacation schedules. Determining and planning for limitations is a fact finding process that can led to quick resolutions and time saving efforts (Portny et al, 2008).
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.