The annual Free Summer Learning Day event is a collaboration between WCNY, The Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County, and the Onondaga County Public Library (OCPL). Held on Tuesday July 11, 2017 from 12:00 noon-2:00 pm in the Canyon Area at Destiny USA, the event aims to raise awareness about the importance of summer learning. Both educational and entertaining, it focused on engaging everyone in the community – parents, families, schools, educators, policymakers, businesses – to make summer a season of learning by pledging to #KeepKidsLearning. This year’s theme was “Dive into Summer with Splash & Bubbles,” one of PBS Kids’ newest shows from the Jim Henson Company.
Developed with an advisory panel of top marine biologists, Splash & Bubbles explore the world’s undersea habitats, make new friends and learn about the many different ways life looks and lives in the ocean. It also focuses on themes of diversity, individuality, interconnectedness and the celebration of learning and discovery. Splash and Bubbles were available for Meet & Greets throughout the two hours and the first 500 children received an ocean-related book and goodie bag. Over 30 tables staffed by organizations from across the region offered “oceanriffic” themed crafts and activities including “fishing for words” and “build your own aquarium.”
The organizations talked with parents about the importance of helping children continue to read and learn over the summer and provided many resources, including free books, to families. WCNY distributed the PBS Summer Adventure activity books and summer reading charts, along with Splash and Bubbles bookmarks that featured the programming schedule for WCNY’s WiCkNeY KIDS 24/7 channel. WCNY also collected names, addresses and email addresses of the parents to receive WCNY’s education newsletters and advance notice on future family-friendly events.
Destiny USA, the region’s largest shopping and entertainment venue, was the chosen site for the event as it is popular with the community and readily accessible by bus for low-income families. Nearly 2000 people turned out over the two hour time period, dramatically up from the 2016 Summer Learning Day attendance of 500. Utilizing PBS characters, combined with many other activities, was the key to success.