By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager
Summer always arrives with palpable anticipation. It’s the season to break free from the regiments, to turn daring and try something new, to explore and embrace a side of you that laid dormant for far too long.
Warm weather, carefree spirits, open minds make the ideal combination perfect for learning.
Last summer approximately 35,000 students participated in programs and events that were part of Dallas City of Learning, the Big Thought-managed initiative that ensures all students have access to summer learning opportunities. That included 285,000 student-learning hours and 38,000 digital badges.
This summer the goal is even loftier. With the support of the national LRNG endeavor, we aim to reach 60,000 youth, partner with 210 local organizations, and offer more than 50 pop-up events ripe for learning and badging.
But in order to project the future we need to take stock of the past. We look back to move forward. So let’s shine a spotlight on last summer’s Geek Squad Academy, a most successful turn-up event brought free to kids thanks to Best Buy and Dallas City of Learning.
Geek Squad Academy drew 250 students to Friendship West Baptist Church in Southern Dallas on July 16 and 17. More than six months later, two of those kids are still full of excitement and enthusiasm about what they learned.
Michael, 10, and Zuri, 9, still vividly remember diving into the variety of activities, especially robotics, digital music, 3D printing, video production, circuitry and coding with Legos.
Zuri wants to be an engineer when he grows up, so he immediately connected to his dream career when learning the programming ins and outs of modern technology.
“I think it would be very, very fun if I kept on doing it because it taught me how to program stuff like an engineer,” he says. “And if it’s not perfect you have to try again to make it perfect, because if something goes wrong it can really go wrong.”
Michael was taken by the 3D printing. He designed a house. But not only that, Michael made the real-life career connection to realtors trying to sell you a house.
“I realized how they did it and now I understand that,” he says. “I learned how to design my own house. It was cool, too. It had a garage and everything.”
Then there are the interpersonal relationships, the social and emotional learning aspects of a two-day camp. Michael says he made a lot of new friends there; while Zuri felt the interaction with the teachers, particularly during the circuitry sessions. He worked with teachers as partners to transfer energy.
“It’s like wires when they touch to make a circuit,” Zuri says. “Your hands are like wires. If they don’t touch, it’s not a complete circuit.”
And yet, perhaps the most important lasting impression from the Geek Squad Academy camp is leadership. Kids were given projects to manage and complete.
“When we are doing group projects in school,” Michael says, “I think about the way I did it at Geek Squad Academy and I do it the same way.”
There you have it. Summer let Michael and Zuri stretch the boundaries of their knowledge, of their ability and motivation to learn. Summer gave them impactful learning. This is learning they will never forget.
Big Thought extends sincere thanks to its corporate, foundation and individual donors supporting Dallas City of Learning. For more information about this program, please visit bigthought.org/dallascityoflearning.