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Saltzman East Memorial Hosts Successful Summer Literacy Camp

Saltzman East Memorial Elementary School recently completed a successful inaugural Summer Literacy Camp! Beginning in July, the five-week literacy camp was offered to select Saltzman elementary students (4 days a week/3 hours per day), designed to increase language skills and prevent the summer slide that many children experience during the months when school is out of session. Over eighty children—grades one through five—participated in what can best be described as a hands-on, engaging learning experience for all! 

The camp was the brainchild of Dr. Josh Anisansel, Director of Secondary ELA and ENL; Kristen Cummings, Director of Science and Health; Principal Trish O’Regan; Assistant Principal Anjany Smar; and Dr. Joan Ripley, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. Together, they worked to secure grants for bus transportation, enlisted daily breakfast/lunch donations from Island Harvest Food Bank (delivered by the local Stop and Shop) and created a community partnership with KPMG. Through their KPMG Family for Literacy program, the firm generously donated 400 books, backpacks, and notebooks and crayons as incentives for students to read. Students were free to choose whatever books interested them, and take them home to add to their home libraries and share with their families. 

“KPMG is committed to helping eradicate childhood illiteracy,” said Jim Leslie, a KPMG Partner in the firm’s Long Island office. “Through our partnership with First Book, we were happy to donate the books and other school supplies that these children need in order to combat the summer slide and prepare them for the upcoming school year.” 

Camp time was spent doing hands-on experiments and learning new vocabulary words. STEAM activities were organized by one of the high school physics teachers, who was the STEAM consultant, and carried out by the library media specialist, all with a central focus on building literacy. Students also built social-emotional skills during organized recess time with the help of their teachers and social worker.  Several Saltzman faculty members were a part of the program—which allowed some students to meet their future teachers in advance and begin building relationships. The district also partnered with Molloy College and Hofstra University to bring in student teachers. This lowered the student-teacher ratio, making it a win-win for everyone.

Farmingdale High School and Weldon E. Howitt Middle School have had educational summer programs in place for several years, but this was the first time a Farmingdale elementary school found a way to put all the pieces together that would allow them to implement an extensive summer learning initiative.

“This was the best symphony of what a school district can do,” said Dr. Anisansel. “We’re really proud of this.”

To celebrate the last week of camp, KPMG sponsored a visit from the Kona Ice Truck. All the students were thrilled to choose flavors and spend time together enjoying a treat.

Administrators plan to continue the summer camp next year in hopes of making it a permanent program. Evidence proves that students who find a way to maintain their reading skills over the summer are better prepared for a successful academic year. The success of this year’s program might even pave the way for the other elementary schools in the district to implement their own summer camp programs in the future.

“This program kept students engaged in meaningful reading activities with a STEAM theme all summer long. The fact that we were also able to add to the home libraries means that the excitement that was built around reading can continue for the next few weeks until school begins,” said Principal Trish O’Regan. “It far exceeded my expectations!”