FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ - Close to 400 local students will have a leg up on their peers when they return to school next month, thanks in part to a new pilot program. 

The Summer Camp Literacy and Math program is a joint effort between Franklin Township's Public Schools and the township's parks and recreation department. 

Key people from each organization teamed up to help fight "summer brain drain."

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According to Education Week, “Teachers spend at least a month re-teaching old material when they return from summer vacation.”

"We have had summers where the kids have not opened a book or done anything academic throughout the entire summer, so having this is a wonderful idea," Howard Anderson, a longtime camp counselor said. "Whoever brainchild it is, I lift my hat to them. I am really in support of this program, it is something that should be implemented moving forward." 

"The feedback from the campers on the program has been mostly positive," Alice Beals, a camp counselor said. "It really just depends on what the activity is the lessons need to be something the kids can connect with on their level." 

This school year it is more important than past year's to give Franklin kids a boost in education, due to the longer than normal summer break (12 weeks), as a result of multiple school construction projects taking place. 

Assistant  Superintendent Daniel (Dan) Loughran led the charge with the help of various district supervisors, directors and principals to collaborate with Alice Osipowitz and Dan Reeve, director and superintendent of the township's parks and recreation department. 

"I would like to personally thank all of the teachers and staff that put together all the materials that helped this project evolve to what it is today," Loughran said.  I would especially like to thank Rebekah Solomon, Nicole Scott, Bill Grippo, Iris Blay and David Heras for doing a lot of the legwork, and going above and beyond to support this project."

The groups worked together to come up with a plan that would balance summer fun and summer learning to help ease the effects of "summer brain drain."

Every week for an hour campers became students with games designed to be fun and educational. The focus was on math and literacy for 30 minutes per subject. 

One of the learning games was called "headbands" (also know as what am I), a game in which campers would hold a card up to their head with a word. Each camper not holding the card would then have to use adjectives and descriptive words to tell the person what the word is.

The curriculum was designed by math and literacy coaches, Jamie Means (literacy), and Christina Cardoza (math) both of whom are coaches at MacAfee Road School. 

Since the program is in its infancy stage, constant tweaks were made throughout the summer to ensure campers were engaged and benefiting from the work. 

Counselors in training (CIT) were trained in June by district and township staff members. Each lesson was reviewed and instructions were given on how to implement the lessons effectively. 

CITs had the opportunity to work on a recreational and academic level with campers, and this helped them to round out their mentorship roles over the summer. 

Many teachers in the district also pitched in by donating more than 500 books to help with summer reading activities. The campers were allowed to bring age appropriate books home to read for one week at a time. Students were also encouraged to take TD Bank's Summer Reading program to earn some cash. 

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