Summer Program Designed to Make Kids ‘Fall in Love With Learning Again'

The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas launched a new initiative called 'Heal, Play, Learn' to combat the learning loss caused by the pandemic

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Summer programs in DeSoto and Cedar Hill ISD are part of a new push to reengage and reconnect kids to school.

"All of us whether we're a student or not we've really been kind of tapped out," said United Way Chief Impact Officer Susan Hoff. "Both the stress of Zoom, the stress of the virtual world and the stress of everything that's gone on around us."

The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas launched 'Heal, Play, Learn' to bridge the pandemic learning gap and help families cope with the stress of the last year.

"The way to do that is through fun activities," Hoff said. "Our brains are geared to things that spark our curiosity, that are fun, that makes us feel safe again."

The Texas Education Agency estimates Texas students lost six months of instructional learning during the pandemic.

Hoff said the program will address that significant loss, but first it will address the emotional and social health of families through art and science.

The program includes creative activities like dozens of STEM programs along with yoga, dance, theater and more, Hoff said.

"This has been a wonderful program," first-grade teacher Shannon Hill said. "The activities that are here can help the students a lot because now you are exposed to more. You're able to move, interact, you learn more with peers around you."

The program launched in southern Dallas County which was among the area hardest hit by COVID-19, but Hoff said they are hopeful other districts adopt the program.

Activities with DeSoto ISD are a part of the district's summer school schedule and families are invited to attend evening events together.

Cedar Hill ISD will host activities on Wednesday evenings for their students and families. You can register for the free Cedar Hill program here.

"One of our superintendents said it so well - 'I want kids to fall in love with school again,'' Hoff said. "And that's what 'Heal, Play, Learn' is all about."

The initiative is funded by the TI Foundation and in partnership with Educate Texas.

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