Dearborn has a wealth of youth programs to combat the ‘summer slide’

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean Dearborn kids have an excuse to play Fortnite all day.

According to a Johns Hopkins study from 2010, most students lose two months of grade level equivalency in math skills over the summer. Low-income students lose the same amount of reading achievement, while kids make slight reading gains.


That's around the city, there are a wealth of opportunities for kids to stay engaged while the mercury rises. There’s more to do than just go to the pool, tool. Whether you’re looking for STEM opportunities, sports lessons, and leagues, or exposure to the arts, there’s no shortage of things for kids to do in Dearborn.


Take Dearborn Public Schools’ Summer Adventure Camp, for instance. It’s open to ages 3 - 12, and this year offers them the chance to travel the world without leaving the Snow School cafeteria at 2000 Culver Street. Kids will experience cultures around the globe via food, art, dance, literature, and sports. Each “tour” lasts three days (Wednesday - Friday) and explores places like Brazil, Chine, Italy, and India. Summer Adventure Camp runs through August 16th.


Then there’s Camp Invention, a short hands-on STEM day camp from the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which runs through June 28th at William Ford Elementary School. There, campers take part in activities inspired by the Hall’s inductees, doing things like rebuilding model ships and designing underwater equipment, learn coding skills, role-play STEM careers, and build their own robots.


Given the burgeoning STEM community in Detroit, one might think this program has surged in popularity in recent years. According to Dearborn Public Schools’ communications director David Mustonen, that’s not the case.


“I don’t know if it’s more popular now or not, but we’ve always had good attendance,” he says. “If we didn’t, [The National Inventors Hall of Fame] wouldn’t do it here.” In addition to Dearborn, Camp Invention is offered at other schools in the metro Detroit region.


Unfortunately, the registration deadline has passed for many of the paid programs, but there are still chances to make sure your kids don’t fall behind this summer. Individual schools are offering programs focused on reading and writing, integrated STEM subjects, and math.


“Those are open throughout the summer and we encourage students to participate” if parents didn’t register for other programs, Mustonen says. “Out of the 30-odd schools, you’re going to find some type of activity going on.”


Of course, that includes summer reading programs. Specifically, Fordson Feeder Elementary Schools offers a weekly traveling story time through August 13th. Each Wednesday morning session includes a story, an activity, and for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade to bring home a new book.


Dearborn Public LIbrary’s summer reading program has a new technological twist this year; using an app or the library website to track time spent reading. This year’s theme is “Universe of Stories” and, as you might imagine, is themed around celestial bodies and outer space.


In addition to family storytimes, there are weekly arts and crafts activities like making sun catchers, tin foil moons, and even the three-eyed aliens from the Toy Story movies. On July 23rd, there’s a connected show at Henry Ford College’s Hammond Planetarium, located at 5101 Evergreen Road, with the program wrapping up that Saturday, July 27th.


For adolescents interested in the arts, the City of Dearborn has a number of things to offer. There are two youth theater programs this summer, both directed by Rashid Baydoun. For 5 - 12-year-olds, there’s Aladdin, KIDS, a “hands-on introduction” to the world of theater according to the parks and rec department. The four-day program culminates with a full-scale production of Disney’s classic tale at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center’s Michel A. Guido Theater (15801 Michigan Ave) on August 10th.


For older kids, there’s a production of Shrek: The Musical. This program lasts four weeks starting June 24th and running through July 25th. The cast and crew of 11 to 18 year-olds will sing, dance and act their way through a trio of performances at the Michael A. Guido Theater starting July 26th.


The parks and rec department also teamed with the Arab American National Museum for the SURA Photography Program Summer Camp. “Sura” is the Arabic word for photograph, and as such, the program teaches kids ages 10 to 16 the basics of photography with digital cameras and smartphones. That entails everything from image composition, lighting, storytelling, and social media sharing. Campers will also have written and photographic assignments in addition to daily field trips around metro Detroit. This year’s kids will have their work featured at the SURA Arts Academy student exhibition this fall. The program runs from July 29th through August 2nd, and as of this writing, seats were still available.


Among the city’s more popular youth programs is Summer at the Center, according to chief information officer Mary Laundroche. It’s geared toward kids ages 5 to 11 and runs Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4.:30 p.m. for eight sessions — perfect for busy parents. Additional childcare is available in half-hour increments. The camps are held at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center and include activities like rock climbing, games, and arts and crafts. Each week carries a different theme, with sessions like “Food Frenzy,” “Wet and Wild,” and “Camp’s Got Talent” on the schedule. Sessions run through August 9th.


There’s also a raft of sports opportunities available, covering everything from football to ice skating lessons, track club, and a specialized youth tennis program. The latter is called “Quick Start” and uses smaller balls, courts, and simplified scoring to ease younger novices into the game. There are other tennis programs available as well for a variety of ages and skill levels. Four two-week sessions meet Monday through Thursday starting July 1st and wrapping up August 8th.


The summer youth golf program at the Robert Herndon Dearborn Hills Golf Course has been going for some 27 years, but the past two have been the most popular with each selling out. So much so that the course is toying with the idea of adding additional sessions to its sold-out summer “Drivers” and “Putters” programs, and one this fall. This summer the program has between 60 and 70 kids ages 7 through 17 enrolled.


What started as more play than instruction is now the opposite. Dearborn Hills’ Chip Hierlihy oversees the program and says that the reason he changed it up was that he thought it was unfair to send new players out on the course before they knew the basics.


“There was a little resistance the first year; if you’re a kid and you play golf, you wanna play,” he says. “But we can definitely make them enjoy playing much better if we get the chance to take them through the fundamentals.”


The programs include clinics and several holes of play, and the “Drivers” program for 12 to 17 year-olds ends with a competitive tournament. Both the “Putters” program for 7 to 11 year-olds and “Drivers” conclude August 6th.


Read more articles by Timothy J. Seppala.

Timothy J. Seppala has been covering the human side of business and technology as a freelance reporter since 2008. He calls Dearborn Heights home and would love to hear your story. Follow him at @timseppala
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