For parents with school-age kids, summer free time can present a challenge—whether it's finding things that appeal to your child's specific interests or filling all that spare time without breaking the bank on class or camp fees. Below, the Wex's Director of Education, Shelly Casto, shares some helpful info on two free programs created in collaboration with local and national organizations to keep kids active and entertained while pursuing different forms of creative expression.
(Image: TRANSIT ARTS)
Summer is the season for both opportunities and pitfalls for young people in our community. It’s a chance to mix things up, try some new experiences and explore possibilities. But, as all parents know, it can also open up the potential for the “summer slide” – a loss of academic gains made during the school year. And, of course, major or minor misadventures can often befall the bored or the uninspired!
Since 2012, the Wexner Center has been partnering with five other Columbus organizations to offer year-round, free opportunities for youth to pursue their interests in supportive and creative environments. Called SURGE Columbus, this collective of youth-focused programming takes place around Columbus at COSI (and WOSU at COSI), the Columbus Museum of Art, the TRANSIT ARTS facility on Bryden Road, and three branches of the Columbus Metropolitan Library: Main, Driving Park and Whitehall.
Many of the programs are drop-in; kids can simply show up, meet a mentor and get working on a project. All of the programs are entirely free and open to youth as young as 12 (COSI also offers all-ages programs). Kids can explore activities from hip-hop dance to designing T-shirts, to digital storytelling. And the spaces provide youth with access to equipment such as video editing software, 3D printers, sound editing systems, and art supplies.
(Image: Columbus Museum of Art)
These programs have emerged from a growing interest among educators in the concept of connected learning: learning that grows out of a student’s own unique interests and connects those interests with opportunities in the larger world, often thanks to technology. Community organizations such as libraries and museums provide invaluable out-of-school opportunities for this kind of learning, as they are free of the demands of state-mandated curricula. Libraries and museums can provide a relaxed, youth-centered environment where kids can just hang out, be themselves, and explore options.
In the past few months, an additional opportunity for youth in Central Ohio has emerged thanks to a grant received by Future Ready Columbus and Junior Achievement. Collaborating with a tech organization called LRNG, youth 12 and up can participate in online and in-person activities around Columbus that focus on career exploration and development. Launched in the past few months, LRNG Columbus is an online platform for these learning opportunities vetted through a panel of educators and youth specialists. Young people can explore a career in the arts, develop their resume writing skills, learn how to code, and flex their creativity. There is no cost to participate and young people can explore and participate at their own pace.
If a young person completes a set of challenges, they can earn a digital badge. Developed by Mozilla, digital badges are a method of secure, online credentialing that proves a recipient’s completion of a set of criteria. Digital badges have the potential to supplement—even challenge—traditional credentialing through the higher education system, expanding democratic access to learning and opportunities.
So, if you have a young person at home this summer, send them to a SURGE site in person and send them to LRNG Columbus on their laptop. Get them thinking about the future they want to pursue while they have some free time to explore.