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Hoping To Keep Kids Learning In The Summer, Dallas Launches Citywide Initiative

When summer hits, many kids from low-income families miss out on activities that will keep them learning. On Wednesday, Dallas joined four other cities -- Columbus, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. -- in a pilot program aimed at addressing the issue. They're following the lead of Chicago, which launched a similar initiative last year.

Called the Dallas City of Learning, the local effort includes the arts education non-profit Big Thought, the Dallas mayor’s office and more than 50 organizations.

"Learning doesn't end when school does," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said. "And we all kind of know that, but we don't create structures to deal with it on a large-scale basis. We have a lot of good individual programs. The key is to scale this."

Rawlings talked about how not all kids learn equally, especially when they're not in the classroom.

"They didn't get to go to summer camp. They didn't get their mom to take them to the Perot [Museum]," he said. "They didn't get involved with arts programs because we didn't have them available. Dallas City of Learning bridges that gap."

The idea is that when different groups collaborate, the opportunities for students to learn will be connected. Those involved include city agencies, museums, libraries and neighborhood organizations. These organizations with work with families to help sign up students.

Students will be encouraged to earn "digital badges," which document online what they've learned and skills they've developed. After creating an account online, students can select from different topics they're interested in to see what activities or events are planned in their area. Categories include coding and games, designing and making, earth and science, sports and wellness, storytelling and zoology.

Also planned are what organizers are calling "turn ups" or free events built around interests like music, poetry and aviation. There's one planned on June 15 in conjunction with the Continental Bridge opening to pedestrian and bike traffic.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.