Beyond the School Day at CMS

February 25, 2014

In the 1800’s, Horace Mann, education philosopher and the first secretary of education in Massachusetts, advocated for expanding the school year for children in rural areas, whose schooling typically followed the agrarian calendar, and reducing the school year for school children in urban communities, who often spent more than 250 days a year in school, with the belief that a summer vacation was critical for children’s cognitive development given his concerns of “overstimulation” of the mind. Since then, the concept of “outside of school time programming” has continued to evolve beyond the summer in order to provide enriching activities for young people beyond the boundaries of the traditional school day. Here at CMS, the Passport Program has grown to include before and after school clubs and care, full and half care days on most professional days, AND vacation and summer camps! At Passport, we believe that out of school programming offers unique learning and growth opportunities for students. Youth spend a lot of time during the school day developing their academic skills; out of school programming can be seen as a time to develop their social and emotional selves. In a large national multi-camp study, youth (ages 8–14) who attended a summer program of at least 1 week in duration reported gains in self-esteem, independence, leadership, friendship skills, adventure/exploration, and spirituality, with several gains maintained 6 months post-camp. These results suggest that out of school programming benefits children in the following ways:

  • children develop more social skills that help them make new friends,

  • children grow more independent and show more leadership qualities,

  • children become more adventurous and willing to try new things.

Similar studies have shown that thoughtfully and intentionally designed after school programs can yield similar social and emotional gains, along with both directly and indirectly supporting academic growth. The most successful programs focus on providing sustained accessibility to programming for families and students, building high quality programming, hiring and recruiting high quality staff, and creating long lasting partnerships between all constituents of the community, including the school, families and greater community.

Knowing this, our goal in Passport is to provide learning opportunities that in many ways model exactly what CMS students are doing in the classroom in a more relaxed and social environment. With clubs, students are able to choose options that suit their interests and developmental needs. Early Care, BOKS, and Extended Day (“X-Day” as it’s affectionately known around school) give students a chance to engage and build relationships with their peers and with our incredibly talented and dedicated staff. They have free time to explore their interests, get outside and play, make new friends, and even learn new things. Our staff works hard to make sure that each day includes a variety of projects, from art and baking to scavenger hunts and fort building, that appeal to a wide variety of students. They aim to get to know each and every student to ensure that they prepare a learning environment that champions and supports the development of every individual.   

As our winter session of programming comes to a close, we have nearly half a year of programming at CMS under our belt. Our February vacation camp had the highest enrollment on record with 44 campers, 17 of whom came from the surrounding Cambridge schools. What an exciting opportunity for our CMS students to also meet new people and build friendships outside of our great community! Campers were encouraged to explore and develop their creative, culinary and artistic talents through a number of art and cooking projects and reading time. We were able to get together as a whole community each day and our older campers love interacting with our youngest, developing leadership qualities and learning to be role models. We even took a field trip to the planetarium. We are excited to see what the spring semester, April vacation camp and eight week summer camp brings for our students and surrounding community youth!


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