Summer Dreaming at South Hills Middle School

By Dominic Lazzini – 10th Grade, South Fayette Township High School

If children don’t engage in educational stimulation throughout the summer, they will experience learning loss.  For instance, most students have lost about two months worth of grade-level mathematical skills when they return to school in the fall. To combat this problem, students at South Hills Middle School in Beechview keep themselves engaged with learning through the Summer Dreamers Academy.

The Summer Dreamers Academy is a no-cost, daily academic camp from the Pittsburgh Public Schools that runs from June 29th to August 5th.  Approximately 400 campers are enrolled at South Hills Middle School, which joins two other Summer Dreamers camps in Langley and Faison. The camp is from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM and includes a reading (English Language Acquisition) block and math block, as well as two enrichment activities, such as computer coding, creating fictional monsters, dancing, and fencing. With all of these activities, there are a lot of helpers and teachers to make sure everything is running smoothly.

The hallways are covered in artwork and inspirational messages.

The hallways are covered in artwork and inspirational messages.

Andrea Barrow is the camp director at the Pittsburgh South Hills Summer Dreamers Academy. It is her 5th year with the program.

“I think it’s so important and such a great opportunity for our kids,” Andrea said. “The best part of Summer Dreamers is seeing kids blossom through the summer. Kids that struggle academically, behaviorally, or even socially are usually, by the end, extremely outgoing.”

She explained that the students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities every day.

One such activity is “Adventures in Movement,” a 90-minute dance period for children in kindergarten to 2nd grade. About 16 students marched to “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” did the “Macarena” by Los del Rio, and even danced “the whip” to the hit song “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).” The kids were able to not only explore the space around them, but also to create their own dances and utilize their creativity.

Campers in the "Adventures in Movement" activity free-style dance.

Campers in the “Adventures in Movement” activity free-style dance.

Another activity is “Color-Coding,” in which kids ages 10 to 11 learn the basics of computer coding. They learn how to code specific things on a computer (for instance, how to find their age). There were 15 campers in the classroom, and 5 helpers eager to assist the kids if they got lost or needed help.

Inside South Hills Middle School, arts-and-crafts adorn the walls, children from grades kindergarten to 7th grade interact and learn, and the teachers and assistants are helpful and welcoming. There are a plethora of activities for the children to choose from, but as Andrea Barrow previously explained, the best part is that the kids get to learn more about themselves.


Dominic Lazzini 1Dominic Lazzini is a 10th grader at South Fayette Township High School. He resides in McDonald, PA and is part of the high school’s media club. He enjoys painting, playing lacrosse, history, and geography. In Dom’s freshman year, he was on the highest honor roll.

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