Congratulations to the Devoted Dreamers Academy for completing their first summer program. The Devoted Dreamers Academy is a summer program started by Demario Davis for middle school students based at Mission First in Jackson, Mississippi. This the second in a three week blog series will describe the process Smarter Learning Group went through with Demario Davis to make this program a reality. Go back and read the first or forward and read the third

Smarter Learning Group staff worked closely with Mission First staff to develop the outline for the day. We worked hard to integrate it within their existing program model. We also wanted to be sure that the curriculum would work for the staff and meet the need of the participants of the organization. It was also critically important that the curriculum be a true reflection of Demario and his values. He reviewed the curriculum and made suggestions at every level of its development.

Each Friday would start off with a motivational welcome and introduction to the character focus of the day from Demario. Over the course of the summer, he would speak from his own experience on the importance of teamwork, courage, fairness, commitment, excellence, integrity and leadership. Demario and Mission First staff would then lead the group in mental and physical warm-ups.

Next the group would participate in an hour of math and science activities that were hands-on, fun and sports oriented. Then participants would separate by grade to participate in discussion and activities based on the Jackson Public Schools summer required reading book. Volunteer educators would use the curriculum developed by Smarter Learning Group to guide participants through each text. Fifth graders would read The Watsons Go To Birmingham—1963, sixth graders would read Bud, Not Buddy, seventh graders would read Tears of a Tiger and eighth graders would read Gifted Hands. Each week, participants would read several assigned chapters, complete a brief assignment sheet and be ready for discussion and activities during this reading block.

After lunch, participant would gather for sports skill development and recreation activities. Demario and Mission First staff led the groups through relays, drills and competitions. Participants would be moving, laughing and learning throughout this fun, high-energy portion of the day.

The group would be divided into four smaller groups for the afternoon activities. In addition, these groups would compete against each other with team cheers and could receive points for excelling in activities and participating throughout the day.

At the end of the day, the group would come together for final thoughts and to calculate group and individual points for the incentive program. Additional age-appropriate, high-interest books would be available for participants to take home to read during the week. Finally, all participants would receive the Summerbridge workbook for their grade to complete during the week.

In April, once the plan was finalized and the curriculum was written, Smarter Learning Group staff went to Mission First to train staff and volunteers on the program. In addition to people from Mission First, some attendees were people were from other organizations/churches who were going to be bringing students from their programs/congregations. Demario also attended the training. The training consisted of an introduction to the importance of summer learning, a detailed overview of the program schedule, a review of specific curriculum activities, and facilitated conversations to create a consensus around operational details and vision. Demario was also able to communicate what was most important for him throughout the day.

Smarter Learning Group continued to work with staff and volunteers for the next six weeks as the staff and volunteers digested the curriculum and began preparation. Smarter Learning Group also ordered all materials, supplies and books for the program and had them sent directly to Mission First.