Falling Into Your Back-To-School Routine

Here it is – already July! It seems like just yesterday we were sharing fun activities that wouldn’t break the bank this summer in and around Boston.

But as a new school year looms, the stress is quickly setting in (for parents and students)! It’s always important to be prepared for a new year by ensuring your child has the necessary school supplies, is familiar with their new teacher and school, and, of course, has their first day outfit already laid out for the big day.

The beginning of the school year is also the perfect time to start new habits, routines and hobbies!

Sure, summer is meant for popsicles for dinner and staying up just a little bit past bedtime, but getting into good habits within the last few weeks of summer can be a game-changer when it comes to that dreaded first wake-up of the new school year.

A great way to start these habits includes waking the kids up a few minutes earlier each day and starting the day with a healthy breakfast. Studies show that “children who skip breakfast will be more sluggish, less attentive, and have less energy to carry out their morning tasks”.

When it comes to afterschool, whether your child gets on the bus and heads home after the final bell rings or if they attend a program like BBTE, provide them with a similar evening routine each day.

This is as simple as having dinner at or around the same time each night followed by homework time or playtime before bed. A great way to end any nightly routine is with a good book! Whether you read to your child or they read to you – reading before bed exercises their brain and prepares them for a full day of learning ahead!

Lastly, the beginning of the school year is also the perfect time to start a new hobby! Most sports or afterschool activities are on the same cycle as the school year, so many activities tend to begin when the school year starts too!

If you’re looking for something new and exciting for your child this upcoming school year, be sure to check out our website for more information about our afterschool programs!

BBTE Has a Passion for Fashion

In case you missed our recent podcast with WGBH, we’ve crossed a bridge leading us to a new passion – fashion! BBTE’s fashion program taps into the artistic talents of our young students and we couldn’t be more thrilled to announce our recent partnership with Boston Fashion Week.

Happening from October 1-7, 2017, Boston Fashion Week was founded as a civic initiative in 1995, to celebrate the great wealth of local, artistic talent. Last month, we had the wonderful opportunity to meet with Boston Fashion Week’s founder and executive director, Jay Calderin.

This summer, Jay will be bringing several designers to BBTE’s fashion program to serve as mentors. These mentors will help teach students proper draping techniques, while helping the students bring their designs to life, so they can be installed at City Hall and other venues during Fashion Week. We’ll also be coordinating a reception for students, families and the community to unveil the designs prior to early October.

And the fun doesn’t stop this fall! We’re also currently raising funds for our fashion students to take a trip in February 2018 to visit the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and Mood, the design store featured on Project Runway. In the next few weeks, we’ll be creating a GoFundMe page, so stay connected to our social pages for more information on how you can help!

If you’re a student at the Tobin School and interested in joining the fashion program, please get in touch ASAP as we have four spots remaining for this year’s program!

School’s Out: Will These Summer Events Make the Grade?

The end of the school year can cause a panic in parents. Many of them are thinking: How will I keep my kids busy all summer long? You don't want your children to spend the entire break playing video games, using up all the family’s data sending Snapchats or posting selfies on Instagram.

Luckily, there are plenty of events (and most of them are free!) happening right here in Boston! Institutions like Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, the Museum of Science and the Museum of Fine Arts host a slew free events, open to the public.

Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum is known for its impeccable grounds and beautiful flowers. Located between Jamaica Plain and Roslindale, the arboretum offers free family exploration tours for children of all ages. Examples of tours include: “Let's Get Journaling: A Walk in the Arboretum for Budding Naturalists” and “Let’s Get Buggy! Exploration of Insect Pollinators.” Registration is required for most events, so be sure to check out their website for more information and upcoming events!

For the astrology lovers, the Museum of Science hosts “Astronomy After Hours” every Friday from 8:30 – 10 p.m.  Parents and children can view stars, planets, the Moon, and more on weather permitting nights. On cloudy nights, you can tour the inside of the Observatory, and participate in astronomy-related activities hosted by museum staff.  

Conveniently located right on the E branch of the Green Line, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) has a wonderful admission policy for kids. Ages 6 and under are always free and kids ages 7-17 are free on weekends, public school holidays, and after 3 p.m. on weekdays. The MFA is a great place to explore – you will see paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs and videos. They also host special events on days like Memorial Day, with art-making activities, gallery tours, music and film, so be sure to keep an eye on special events happening throughout the summer!

Other ideas for summer activities include exploring Boston’s historic Freedom Trail, visiting Faneuil Hall to watch jugglers, clowns, musicians and other street performers, and Free Friday Flicks at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade.

There is an abundance of activities to enjoy all summer long so be sure to check out websites like The Boston Calendar and Boston Central for all of the latest updates!

School’s Out for Summer – Keep the Learning Alive!

The backpacks are put away. The lunchboxes are in storage until September. The flip flops are out, ready for the first beach trip of the season. Your child’s brain is quickly shifting into summer mode, but how can we keep the learning alive for the next three months?

It’s important to note that summer school doesn’t have to be an intense, six-hour long math class in a room with no windows. Some of the best summer programs out there provide students with academic, athletic and social enrichment opportunities. Let’s learn a little bit more about why these three core areas are crucial to learning advancements.

Academics

Whether you’re a seasoned calculus and algebra pro, or need an extra hand with your long division, summer academic programs are often tailored to the student’s skillset to set them up for success. By keeping the brain alive all summer, parents/guardians and even the students themselves may notice an increase in cognitive development at the start of the new school year.

Academic programs are also a great way to learn about possible careers in various fields, such as math, communications, arts and even fashion design.

Athletics

To avoid summer boredom and irritation, get up and get moving! Programs that are not fully athletic-based can still leave the child stimulated. The activities do not have to be extremely rigorous, such as an elite soccer camp. Various athletic options at summer programs often include dancing, aerobics or a friendly game of tag.

Social

Regardless of the summer program’s focus, a huge benefit for children is the social interaction it provides. Often times, programs are open to a larger group of students, introducing children to peers they may have not known during the school year.

Through organized activities, children can learn and sharpen their social skills, be more open to trying new things and learn how to respond to new and challenging situations.

With just two and a half months left in the school year, now is a great time to investigate nearby summer programs best suited for your child and his/her needs. 

To learn more about Boston’s Bridge to Excellence Summer Academy, please visit our website and enroll today!

Reading Can Be Your Pal

Did you know that the biggest turning point in a child’s education is the fourth grade? If a child isn’t reading proficiently by then, there is only a 22 percent chance that child will ever catch up to the appropriate reading level. This is just one of the frightening statistics that shed the truth on illiteracy in the United States.

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At Boston’s Bridge to Excellence (BBTE), we understand that it’s essential to have strong reading skills. Along with the above statistic, experts have revealed that 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate. Sixteen- to 19-year-old girls at or under the poverty level with below average reading skills are also six times more likely to have out-of-wedlock children than their reading counterparts.

Get Creative

To avoid the dangers of students lacking strong reading skills, there are a couple easy ways to get kids excited to read!

Soliciting anticipation and enthusiasm for reading starts with creativity. Children love being creative so setting up an arts and crafts activity prior to reading time is a no brainer.

Creativity also gives children the confidence to use their imagination. They begin to feel more eager and willing to share their thoughts after reading time.

Read To A PAL

Another way of drawing excitement for reading is by getting the community involved for group readings.

Last summer, BBTE’s Program Administrator Sophia Bishop-Rice facilitated a partnership with The Boston Police Athletic League (PAL). It was then that PAL Executive Director William Stoddard and Police Commissioner William Evans brought a pilot reading program called Read to a PAL to BBTE’s summer students.

Once a week for four weeks, students gathered at the South End Library in Roxbury to listen to read-a-louds conducted by high-ranking police officials. Commissioner Evans was the kick-off reader last summer, where he read Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.

Goals for the students involved in the pilot reading program were to develop social-emotional skills and reverse summer learning loss by preparing children for their return to school in the fall with new vocabulary and better knowledge of their overall health and wellness.

Our partnership with PAL exceeded our intended goals and Commissioner Evans will be returning on February 22, 2017, to engage in another read-a-loud during BBTE’s February vacation week program. The Read to a PAL program will take place at the Maurice J. Tobin K-8 School in Roxbury from 11:30am – 12:30pm. 

Fun Tips for Raising Ready Readers

You don’t need to wait until your child is in school to begin fostering literacy. It’s proven that early learning can have a major impact on skills later in life, including comprehension, speaking, spelling and more.  

Like almost everything, literacy becomes habitual. Children won’t understand the importance of daily reading unless parents instill it in their everyday schedule. There are many ways for parents to encourage this daily without making it seem like a daunting task or chore to their children.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Children often repeat words and actions they hear and see from adults in their daily life. If your kids see how excited you are about reading, learning or talking about books, they’re more likely to follow suit. We all know how important it is to shield certain things from the eyes and ears of children, so if the opposite takes place – it can have a positive outcome.

Feed Their Imagination

Another way to encourage literacy is to engage a child’s imagination. This can be as easy as asking your child to tell you a story about their day during meal times, or joining them for playtime. Imagination is an important part of a child’s cognitive development. This which can help form problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

Make it a Habit

Lastly, an important step to strengthening skills in young children is instilling learning every day. Storytime can become a daily ritual – just like snack time and hopefully nap time! Reading to your child every night at bedtime is a great example of habitual learning. Eventually they’ll look forward to this time of day and you can too!

For more information on Boston’s Bridge to Excellence and how our after school services can help raise ready readers, please visit our website and check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Gather Together With Thankful Hearts

As the season of giving approaches, Boston’s Bridge to Excellence (BBTE), a non-profit that provides career mentoring and academic enrichment programs for children in lower income communities, will be hosting their annual Thanksgiving Potluck and Community Event on Thursday, November 18th from 6:30-8:30pm at KIPP Academy Boston.

 This wonderful event is free to families, up to four, enrolled in BBTE. For families not enrolled in the program the cost to attend is $20 per family of four.

 BBTE’s Thanksgiving Potluck and Community Event will be similar to the Harvest Family Night that was held in late October, which brought out nearly 100 people. The kids and their families enjoyed delicious food, bounce houses, games, an airbrush artist, and more! 

Bring your favorite dish, your family and friends and join us for a fun evening for all. Don’t forget to register!

 For more information on BBTE please visit our website or check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.