Summer doesn’t mean taking a break from learning 

Summer break for most students began this week. Does that mean learning takes a break? Not in San Francisco, where we make The City our classroom all year long.

Throughout The City, children are participating in programs where they can learn everything from cooking to coding (see resource link at the end of the column). In addition to making sure the children in your life have access to great summer programs, parks and libraries, you can also encourage learning with everyday summertime occurrences.

What’s STEM and why do it in the summer?

We have some mad science going on this summer.

To start, we have added something special to our popular Step Up to Middle School program for incoming San Francisco Unified School District sixth-graders. With the help of the Foundation, incoming sixth-graders will fill their afternoons with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning after their mornings of finding lockers, navigating the hallways and prepping for the life of a middle school scholar.

One activity students will be doing during STEM time is designing robots that can play basketball by throwing a ping-pong ball into a waste basket.

For high schoolers who are taking summer school biology, learning will be extra hands-on as they head out to creeks and city spots to learn how ecosystems work and test the environment for toxins.

Elementary students in the Bayview and the Mission Superintendent’s Zones will be taking five STEAM (that’s STEM with art added!) field trips to museums around The City, and several will be taking part in a weeklong robotics day camp focusing on chess and robotics.

Batting averages and beach shadows

And as I’ve said many times before, some great summer learning can happen with the family.

Do you have any Giants fans at your house? Next time you watch a game, have your young child play umpire and ask her to keep count of each batter’s balls and strikes. Older kids can take a swing at calculating a batter’s average for the game.

If you head outside with your kids, explore the physics of shadows. Ask kids to look at their shadows at different times of the day. Use a stick in the sand or chalk on a sidewalk to trace shadows to see how they shrink and grow with time. Kids are natural scientists, so I bet if you ask them why that’s happening they will have fun figuring it out.

Keep showing your child that his or her education — even during summer break — is important to you.

I can’t wait to see all our students back this fall and find out what they learned.

Find more summer learning options at’s website sponsored by San Francisco’s Department of Children, Youth and Their Families at

Richard A. Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District. This column is going on summer vacation and will return at the beginning of the next school year in the fall.

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