A record 100,000 students are enrolled in Los Angeles Unified’s digital summer school, which started Monday with enrichment classes designed in partnership with celebrity filmmakers, musicians and sports stars.
This is the first time summer school has been made available to all students in the LAUSD, and Superintendent Austin Beutner said that’s because the district believes it may help mitigate learning loss due to the pandemic that forced schools to close back in March and transition to online learning. There’s still no plan for when campuses will reopen.
“By taking advantage of the tools, technology and online connection every student now has, we can continue to nurture our students’ love of learning during the summer months,” Beutner said.
In addition to grade-level classes focused on fundamental literacy and math, Los Angeles Unified is offering several enrichment classes for its first online summer school. The district is leveraging partnerships with the likes of James Cameron, the award-winning director of “Titanic” and “Avatar,” who has invited high school students to embark on a “Voyage of the Titanic” to learn about the biology and physics of the deep ocean, underwater exploration, artifact conservation and history.
“As our community pivoted to online learning during this rough patch we’re all facing, I looked for a way to help educators engage with students,” Cameron said. “Titanic is a subject with broad appeal but with many teachable lessons, from the math and science of the ship sinking, to the history and sociology of the event, to contemporary themes of warnings unheeded and the need for strong leadership in a crisis. It’s important for all of us in this entertainment capital to use our storytelling skills to engage the young minds of our city.”
Illumination Entertainment, the creators of “Despicable Me,” “The Minions,” “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Sing,” will share with students the process of making an animated film while helping them learn to animate their own stories.
“The curriculum has been designed with an eye toward academic rigor and sheer enjoyment,” Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri said. “This opportunity is a first step to introducing Los Angeles children to the future possibilities of our growing industry.”
The Los Angeles Chargers will offer lessons on the science, nutrition and medicine of sports, and the Columbia Memorial Space Center will help students explore space while investigating astronomy and space technology. There are also about 1,000 middle school students partaking in guitar, bass and ukulele lessons via Fender Play with the Fender Play Foundation.
LAUSD also launched a YouTube channel this week called Los Angeles Unified World of Learning. Led by educators from Los Angeles Unified and technologists from YouTube, the channel provides additional enrichment opportunities.
Los Angeles Unified took a similar approach in March in its work with PBS. Instructional experts from Los Angeles worked with content and distribution experts from PBS to create educational programming which has become a model for the nation, district officials said.
Board of Education members emphasized the importance for youngsters to continually learn, even in the summer months, and especially since it remains unclear when or if schools will reopen this fall when the new semester starts Aug. 18.
“Learning is an ongoing process and happens in a multitude of ways,” board member George McKenna said. “Our summer learning courses display great variety in the available selections of core subjects and enrichment programs. We have something to stimulate the interest and knowledge growth for all of our students.”
Board member Nick Melvoin said the programs will help to prevent “the devastating learning loss” students are facing during the pandemic.
Beutner on Monday reiterated that no decision has been made about students returning to school facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic when the academic year starts, but he said officials are working on a plan.
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