Smarter Learning Blog

Devoted Dreamers Academy: How Did it Go?

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 final in a three part blog series about the process Smarter Learning Group went through with Demario Davis to make this program a reality. Read the first and second installments.

During the final day of the Devoted Dreamers Academy, participants made presentations to the group on the books they’d read, made ice cream while learning about the science behind salt, found out which team had won the program-long incentive competition, and enjoyed an ice cream social.

On an end-of-summer survey almost all participants agreed or strongly agreed that the Devoted Dreamers Academy had helped them feel prepared for the school year and that they had learned a lot in the program. As participants reflected on what they learned or enjoyed about the program many mentioned the reading program. They enjoyed the way the teachers helped them understand the required books on the summer reading list as well as how they made the books come alive. One such activity had participants create their own suitcases similar to the one Bud had in the novel, Bud Not Buddy. They had a chance to talk about the physical items might best represent them and their lives. One 8th grader explained of her experience, “I got a lot of things out of this camp. It taught me how to be a leader and read more. I also learned how to do UNRAAVEL better.”

Other participants mentioned the science activities. Throughout the course of the summer they did a number of sports related science activities, […]

By |August 14th, 2014|Mission-Driven|Comments Off on Devoted Dreamers Academy: How Did it Go?

Developing the Program Curriculum and Training Staff and Volunteers

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 […]

By |August 5th, 2014|Mission-Driven|Comments Off on Developing the Program Curriculum and Training Staff and Volunteers

Laying the Groundwork for a New Summer Program

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 three part blog series will describe the process Smarter Learning Group went through with Demario Davis to make this program a reality. Read the second and third installments. 

Demario Davis, linebacker for the New York Jets, wanted to give back to his community. He had a vision for a summer camp in Jackson, Mississippi but he had a lot of questions about how to best implement a program, so he contacted Athletes for Hope who put him in touch with the Smarter Learning Group. We worked closely with him, advising him on several operational options—from starting a summer camp from scratch to imbedding a program with an existing organization. We created a budget for the program and over the course of several discussions, we worked with Demario to narrow down top goals for the program. Based on these discussions, he decided he wanted to run the program in conjunction with an existing organization. He wanted the program to have learning, athletic and character development components. He wanted to target middle school students and he wanted them to have a lot of fun.

Once the top goals for the program were clear, Smarter Learning Group used its relationship with the local Jackson United Way organization to vet possible sites for the Devoted Dreamers Academy. The United Way recommended several good programs in the area. Smarter Learning Group staff visited each site and spoke with staff. It was important to get a sense of the capacity of the organization with questions such as:

How many young […]

By |July 28th, 2014|Mission-Driven|Comments Off on Laying the Groundwork for a New Summer Program

When Writing a Strategic Plan, Be Sure It Has a Good Cover

This 3-minute video clip from the movie Apollo 13 provides a useful reminder about the perils of strategic planning. We face a political and funding environment that is best characterized by its volatility, complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity. […]

By |September 30th, 2013|Mission-Driven, Opportunities, Strategic Planning|Comments Off on When Writing a Strategic Plan, Be Sure It Has a Good Cover

What’s in your backpack?

It’s back-to-school season. Schools, parents, and children across the country are preparing for the all-important first day of school with backpacks full of pencils, paper, and notebooks. School supplies are the tangible, visible signs of a child’s preparation for school. I’m curious about the stuff kids bring back to school that’s less visible. What if you could see their experiences or opportunities as easily as you could their pens or folders? Of all the things that kids and families could do to get ready, what do you think are the most important? I suspect if we really took inventory of what many kids have and what others lack, we’d have a better sense of how to create an excellent and equitable education system.

By |August 31st, 2013|Opportunities|Comments Off on What’s in your backpack?