Innovative at its core, Big Thought is driven by a mission to make imagination part of everyday learning—not just in the classroom, but also across a student’s life. When the imagination is engaged, it sparks a greater interest in science, math, literacy, business and many other learning opportunities. In short, unlocking the mind unleashes the potential of at-risk youth, and Big Thought achieves this by developing and providing access to campus and community-based creative learning programs.
Closing the summer learning gap
One of the most significant ways Big Thought works to impact youth development and academic success is by focusing on opportunities students have to learn when they aren’t in school. Research shows that two-thirds of the achievement gap in reading can be attributed to unequal summer learning experiences. As author Malcolm Gladwell put it, “Virtually all of the advantage that wealthy students have over poor students is the result of differences in the way privileged kids learn when they are not in school…America doesn’t have a school problem. It has a summer vacation problem.”
Living in impoverished neighborhoods simply leads to less out-of-school learning experiences. In fact, by grade six, low-income students have already missed out on 6,000 hours of learning. Enter Dallas City of Learning.
To help put an end to summer learning loss among Dallas students, Fossil Unbound proudly partners with Big Thought on Dallas City of Learning—a program that engages underserved youth in summer educational opportunities, transforming Dallas into a citywide learning lab. This connected learning initiative ensures that safe, high-quality programs and activities are available outside of school in all neighborhoods, for all kids. Our partnership of more than three years runs deep; by leveraging all of the skills and expertise we can, Fossil employees have directly helped to accelerate the impact of many Big Thought programs like this one.
Initial results suggest big impact
In its first year, Dallas City of Learning has garnered exciting results. 11,743 students participated in the 2014 summer pilot, well exceeding the plan to serve 10,000 young people. These students explored and discovered new interests and skills in 365 unique experiences—from aviation to photography, to theater—at locations across Dallas, including museums, libraries, neighborhood organizations and cultural centers.
Near-term results of a national research study by RAND Corporation and Wallace Foundation indicate there is much continued success ahead for Dallas City of Learning. Students who participated in the program entered school in the fall with stronger mathematics skills than peers who did not participate, as well as a meaningful advantage in reading.*
Being involved from the ground level on a program with this much potential for making lasting change in our city and the lives of the young people within it is, to say the least, thrilling. And Dallas is only the beginning of a much larger movement, as our pilot is being scaled to other cities across the nation. We can’t wait to see the summer learning gap grow smaller and smaller, as opportunities outside the classroom allow minds to grow bigger and bigger.
*It should be noted that this advantage in reading applies only to students attending at least 22 days of the summer program or receiving at least 39 hours of reading. Very few students achieved this participation level in our pilot year, however we are excited about what this means as the program expands.