Fall 2015–Celebrating 107 Years of Serving Youth
PBC seeks to transform the lives of vulnerable young people through integrated experiential and adventure-based programming in schools and at our outdoor campus.
BRIDGING THE GAP Summer. For many it evokes thoughts of sunny days, playing with friends, free time to explore. This summer, for more than 100 middle and high school students from four urban public schools, it meant a chance to maintain their academic skills while spending sunny days with friends exploring the 264-acre campus of the Princeton-Blairstown Center (PBC). PBC launched the Summer Bridge program in 2015 to address the summer learning loss that is common for most students, but even more so for those from urban districts. The program was an overwhelming success and we are expanding next year. Recent research suggests that students lose between one and two months of academic knowledge during the summer, with a significant impact on reading and math skills. Low-income students typically exhibit a steeper loss. This effect is cumulative over multiple summers. While nearly 75% of public schools in the United States offer some academic assistance over the summer, most of it is designed to provide remedial learning for students who need to get up to speed, not minimizing summer learning loss itself. Additionally, because participation in summer programs is generally quite low and some evidence suggests the reason is that parents do not want their children in summer programs that mimic school-year instruction, a different vehicle may be needed to address the problem. We have that vehicle.
PBC’s Summer Bridge experience included five days of handson academic work mixed with project-based learning, leadership, social emotional learning (SEL), and fun, led by trained PBC facilitators and faculty from each of the participating schools. Each morning, students worked in small groups focusing on academic enrichment including literacy and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) skills. PBC’s facilitators developed a STEM curriculum that included active learning activities such as a game of elimination tag that simulated macro invertebrate populations and how environmental stressors can impact the population; and a competition between teams of two or three students to build the tallest free-standing structure using sticks of spaghetti, a yard of tape, a yard of string, and a marshmallow. During projectbased learning and journaling sessions, one group of students wrote future biographies and participated in a wilderness survival skills training entitled “Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse.” Afternoons were spent exploring the beauty of PBC's 264acre campus. For many of the students, it was their first time canoeing, hiking, and orienteering, so they were learning those skills at the same time they were learning about the plants and animals native to northwest New Jersey. PBC’s adventure activities provided the backdrop for the development of leadership and SEL skills. Students climbed up the 60-foot climbing tower, rappelled down the dam, and completed challenges on high ropes course elements including a zip line. These activities helped them cope with and overcome their fears, learn more about themContinued on page 2...