The Notebook

Lesley Ellis School Summer Program
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A Summer Like No Other

The Lesley Ellis School Summer Program began more than a decade ago to continue the school’s student-centered approach to learning beyond the traditional school year. Designed around popular weekly themes, each session is led by Lesley Ellis School staff, along with like-minded college students and other educational professionals.

In addition to serving children from preschool to eighth grade who are enrolled in Lesley Ellis during the academic year, the summer program is open to the larger community – from Arlington, Belmont, Lexington, Cambridge and beyond.

“We can accommodate almost anyone who wants to come, as long as they are age-eligible,” explains Jeanette Keller, director of the Lesley Ellis School Summer Program. She adds that the program is not only convenient for families but provides children with a host of safe, fun activities that build skills and support learning. According to Jeanette, once a family becomes part of the program, their children usually return each year, bringing siblings and neighborhood friends.

About the Program

The summer program runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily with an extra 4-5:30 p.m. component for families whose work schedules necessitate a later pick up.

The extended day was added a few years ago in response to parent requests. The entire program is 10 weeks long, and the Trailblazers, older students entering grades 5–8, attend for the first three weeks and last three weeks of the program.

The Young Adventurers, children in the program who are entering preschool (2.9) and prekindergarten, spend a full day at Lesley Ellis. They hear stories, do crafts, play, and twice a week they have special activities. For example, during one week the children were entertained by a storyteller and then later in the week another expert introduced the youngsters to creative movement. “Instead of the children going on field trips, people come to the program,” Jeanette states. “They’re really little to go on field trips, but they have a lot of outside time.”

Junior Discoverers, children entering transitional kindergarten, kindergarten and grade 1, have two themes per week, including activities like jewelry making and engineering. They also have a large group theme and outside time. After lunch, children go to the Boys and Girls Club for swimming three times during the week.

In addition, organizations and groups like Mad Science and Knucklebones come to the school on Thursdays to share learning with Junior Discoverers. And every Friday, the children don their Lesley Ellis tee shirts and go on field trips tied to the week’s theme – places like the Aquarium, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, and Jump on In.

Summer program participants entering grades 2–4 are called Senior Explorers. Their schedule is similar to that of the younger children, but as Jeanette explains, “Their activities are a little more challenging.” For instance, when Mad Science came to the summer program for the younger children, the Senior Explorers traveled to the Mad Science lab to take part in activities there. Fridays are field trip days with visits to places like Fenway Park. 

Trailblazers are entering grades 5–8 and have a field trip every morning. The trips are thematic and so exciting that some rising ninth graders who have aged out of the program ask to participate! During a water-themed week, the preteens and young teens go on a whale watch, the beach, kayaking, rowing and more. In the afternoon, they might do crafts, watch a movie and even plan for an overnight camping trip.

Trailblazer activities are offered during the first and last three weeks of the Lesley Ellis Summer Program. During the other four weeks, fifth through eighth graders have the opportunity to attend specialized weeklong programs like Chess Camp, Art Camp and the ImagArena.

Growing Each Year

Given the range and quality of activities, it is no wonder that the Lesley Ellis Summer Program has grown each year since it began over a decade ago. With more than 250 children currently enrolled, Jeanette states, “summer 2019 is the biggest to date.”

Most impressive, the program grows primarily through word of mouth. But when you offer whale watching, storytelling, rowing, overnight camping, jewelry making, swimming and so much more to help children build the skills and knowledge they need to succeed, how could you not also experience success?