Excitement builds as JCPS prepares to kick off Summer Backpack League

For the first time ever, the district is holding camp-like excursions designed to boost reading and math skills 

Malika Muratova looks over information about the district's Summer Backpack league with her mother at Wednesday's orientation.

By Toni Konz Tatman | JCPS Communications

Malika Muratova is excited about her four-week adventure this summer.

For two weeks, the Watterson Elementary School fifth grader will be chasing art through literacy and math and taking trips to the Speed Art Museum and the KMAC Museum. She will then spend another two weeks using technology to learn about immigration, culture, heritage and tradition in Louisville's Hispanic Community. 

"It's going to be fun," she said with a smile while attending orientation Wednesday for Jefferson County Public Schools’ first ever summer Backpack League, which takes place July 8 through Aug. 2 on the Louisville Male High School campus.

Approximately 1,000 of the district's students in grades three through six will participate in one (or two) of 30 camp-like excursions to different sites around Greater Louisville will make for unforgettable deeper learning experiences.

Backpack League orientation sign

Earlier this spring, teachers from across the district were invited to submit proposals for the Backpack League. From designing parks and learning how to play soccer to going WILD for Animals and learning about Muhammad Ali’s core principles, students will get to experience learning in a non-traditional way. 

"The teachers have designed some pretty phenomenal learning experiences and our students are going to have an amazing time," said Felicia Smith, the assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. "The teachers whose designs were selected came to multiple design labs that helped flush out their ideas. They have really committed their time to creating some solid lessons that we will fold into our district's overall curriculum framework."

Involving the teachers in the design of Backpack League was key, Smith said.

"When teachers can design and contribute to the curriculum, it not only gives them great ownership, it also creates wonderful, relevant learning experiences for our students," she said.

Superintendent Marty Pollio, who has spoken at-length about the needed for extended summer learning since he took over as the district's leader, said he is very excited about what has been put together.

He credits the district's chief academic officer, Carmen Coleman, for spearheading the effort. 

"This four-week summer program will provide additional support in reading and math to thousands of students who need it most," he said. "This is something we hope will continue for years to come."

Backpack League principal Kara Ammerman talks with families at orientation

The summer learning initiative—which will also provide breakfast and lunch for students as well as transportation—will cost the district approximately $1 million.

Each adventure has two teachers and there are about 40 kids per adventure that will be split between two classrooms, said Kara Ammerman, principal of the Backpack League.

"Our overall goal is to engage our students in learning throughout the summer and have fun at the same time," she said. "At the end of the adventures, there will be an expedition of learning where the students will showcase what they have learned."

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