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Jumpstart Toolkit: Summer Learning Program

This toolkit, was curated by the Summer Learning Implementation Committee, a project of the California Department of Education Expanded Learning Division.

This toolkit was adapted from the National Summer Learning Association “Summer Starts in September” Planning Guide.

Our goal is to identify and share basic and important tasks related to quality program area listed in this document: Purpose, Planning, Staff, Partnerships, Integrated, and Unique Program Culture, to help first-time grantees “jump start” a summer learning program. We have linked You for Youth Summer Learning Initiative External link opens in new window or tab. resources. This toolkit has become a planning resource for the System of Support for Expanded Learning Technical Assistance Providers and summer grantees alike.

Unique Program Culture


Program has mission and vision statements that are grounded in the needs of the community and connected to the current strategic plan. The program sets annual goals for youth and for the organization that drive a continuous cycle of evaluation and quality improvement.

  1. Assess the needs of the community and make sure the mission and vision of the program are connected with documented school or community needs
  2. Develop specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-limited youth outcome goals for the summer program in both academic and non-academic areas.
  3. Develop a youth recruitment plan. Develop student applications, recruitment fliers, consent forms and acceptance status letters. Develop and implement strategies to build awareness and promote enrollment, including key methods, events and messengers.
  4. Develop an evaluation plan. How will you measure progress for each youth outcome and quality improvement goal? Include both quantitative and qualitative assessments.
  5. Compile attendance lists and develop your attendance tracking tool.

  6. Develop a plan to collect stakeholder feedback on your program. Collect feedback from staff, youth, partners and other key stakeholders.


Program is designed to allocate enough time, staff and resources to promote positive academic and developmental youth outcomes. The program has a proactive program planning process that is inclusive of all key stakeholders and connected to the goals of the program. The program has a comprehensive structure in place for all programming throughout the summer in advance of the session.

  1. Understand requirements and deadlines for offering summer learning programs at your approved school sites.
  2. Select your program dates. Aim for a minimum of 120–150 hours of programming for all youth.
  3. Plan for moderate to vigorous physical activity for all youth in your program every day.
  4. Plan the summer staff meeting schedule. Explore staff development, team-building and other activities that can be incorporated into daily staff meetings in an intentional way.
  5. Involve youth in planning the program. Collect their input on relevant topics and offerings for the summer program.

  6. Develop a standard unit and lesson plan format for the program. Ensure templates include connections to academic standards, pacing and sound instructional and youth development strategies. Research commercially available curriculum to meet program goals.

  7. Develop a comprehensive program schedule complete with special events and field trips.
  8. Confirm on/off-site facilities and six-hour programming, if applicable.
  9. Order materials and supplies.
  10. Plan field trips with connections to program themes and goals. Confirm locations and transportation. Develop and distribute all consent forms (research, photo/video release, etc.) and permission slips.
  11. Plan a culminating event for families, youth, staff and partners: a showcase, celebration, talent show or competition to show off the successes of your summer program.

  12. Organize materials and supplies for distribution to sites. Set a schedule for distribution.


Program recruitment and staffing process intentionally yields culturally competent staff with relevant skills. Staff is empowered to manage the program and has a voice in organizational decisions. The program provides extensive opportunities for staff development and advancement before, during and after the session.

  1. Develop job descriptions for all seasonal positions at least three months in advance of the program to ensure comprehensive staff recruitment.


Program builds and maintains strong linkages with partners, including community organizations, the public school system and government agencies, that are supportive of its mission and have a vested interest in the program’s success. The program has a formal structure for communication and data sharing with all key external partners. The program builds and maintains strong linkages with families.

  1. Develop Memorandum of Understandings with program partners to outline roles, responsibilities and resource allocation.


Programming builds skills, knowledge and behaviors that promote academic success and healthy development. Activities show a blend of academic strategies and social/emotional development strategies throughout the entire day.

  1. Engage veteran staff and partners to develop the program's behavior management strategy, including shared visual and spoken cues, program principles and opportunities for youth leadership. Remember to think about rituals and leadership roles at arrival, departure, meal times and transitions to create a smooth and successful program.

Unique Program Culture

Program creates a “summer culture” that is different from the school year and promotes a sense of community.

  1. Develop or confirm program principles. What characteristics or qualities describe successful staff and youth in your program? How do staff and youth incorporate them in day-to-day program interactions?

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Questions:   Expanded Learning Division | | 916-319-0923
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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