It’s the first day of school—sort of. At Hazel Dell Elementary School, students are working on vowel sounds, decorating nametags and participating in icebreaker activities. They herald from several different schools, but they’re all eager to learn on this bright July morning. It’s the first day of Summer Literacy Adventure.

For three weeks, elementary students from all over the district are engaging in intense literacy work as they study the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Rome. They also use an online literacy program called Imagine Learning that matches their individual learning needs and speed. Music and art enrich the program experience. Classes are small to ensure that teachers can work closely with students.

Attending Summer Literacy Adventure doesn’t mean foregoing the pleasures of summer, however. In fact, students are encouraged to participate in physical activities after the four-hour day ends. “To get the kids ready to be seated and be able to learn, their bodies have to move,” explained coordinator Julie Vanover, a counselor for English language learners at Skyview High School and administrative intern, who coordinates the program. That mind-body connection also includes “getting the right food every day and getting those wiggles out,” said Vanover.

Summer Literacy Adventure is one of four academic summer programs offered by Vancouver Public Schools in 2017. The offerings also include an option for high schoolers to make up credits; Jump Start, a program to ease the transition to school for incoming kindergartners; and Extended School Year.

For students of all grades who receive special education services, Extended School Year provides individualized and small group instruction as they continue working toward meeting their goals. Those include both academic goals, such as counting and writing sentences, and social ones.

In both Summer Literacy Adventure and Extended School Year, the focus on maintaining knowledge and skills serves as a bridge between one school year and the next to prevent the detrimental so-called summer slide in learning.

Said Erin Deboard, who coordinates Extended School Year and will serve as an administrative intern at Discovery, “We want students to be here, excited for learning and to keep their skill set nice and strong for the fall.”

After all, the first day of school—the real one—is only a little more than a month away.