Whirlwind: Summer Learning in Motion is a program that has grown out of a partnership between United Way of Erie County, The Nonprofit Partnership, ArtsErie, and Erie Day School, where the program has its home base. The group came together over the concern that when students are not challenged and active learners over the summer months, they tend to fall back academically.
The solution, the group felt, was to design a program around the useful projects students will create, attract the most dedicated and engaging teachers in the area to lead the program, dedicate a website to the program to house the students' work, and let the group's enthusiasm do the rest.
From June 27 through August 5, 2011, a group of 15 students from the city of Erie who are aged 10 through 14 and entering grades 6, 7, and 8 tackled the subjects of food and fitness, immersing themselves in what it takes for them and their peers to have healthier habits and lifestyles. Among the projects completed by the group and its community partners were:
An analysis of the "Erie Food Desert," (neighborhoods with no grocery stores)
A cookbook and snacking guide for middle and high school students
A dance, fitness, and exercise video for peers
A "truth campaign" about fast food - sorting truth from myth in a powerful industry.
All the work of the Whirlwind students is housed on the program website, www.whirlwinderie.org. Early reports show that students were enthusiastic about the program and found that learning was possible - and even fun - during the summer months. Students will be followed during the school year to see if Whirlwind has lasting benefit regarding their attitudes toward school as well as their eating and exercise habits.
Support for the program is provided by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Way of Erie County, ArtsErie, The Nonprofit Partnership, and other donors who have placed a fun and engaging learning opportunity among their priorities for young people in Erie.