More than 10,000 elementary and middle school students engaged in high quality summer learning designed to promote a successful start to the next school year. This work was made possible through collaboration with nonprofits, cultural institutions, volunteers, artists, teachers, curriculum writers and administrative staff.

Students' activities connected arts with non-arts subjects. Science was made real through painting. Social studies came alive through theater productions. Math was explained through dance.

Instead of a punitive experience for kids who fell behind in the school year, Thriving Minds Summer Camps made learning fun, active and positive. Kids not only completed their classes, but begged their parents to come back the next day!

Our community said “Yes” to making education a priority, and the changes are beginning to speak for themselves.

Quality of Summer Learning Opportunities


Since 2007, cultural partners, teaching artists, classroom teachers, school administrators and researchers have gathered annually to observe and report the quality of instruction and student learning offered during the summer. This assessment uses the Six Dimensions of Quality Teaching and Learning and draws upon national learning standards, 21st Century Skills Framework and the research of the Institute for Learning.

In the beginning we found that 41% of summer learning, or summer camp experiences, were Less Than Basic. Little to no learning was taking place. In the programs and classes where learning was happening, it was typically a “sit and get” lesson or Basic (53%).

Big Thought, in collaboration with Dallas ISD, the cultural community, City of Dallas and others set out to enliven and enrich summer learning opportunities beginning in 2010. Dallas ISD teachers and principals partnered with community educators and artists, and slowly quality is improving.

There has been a 10% increase in Proficient and Advanced levels of teaching and learning, and a 22% decrease in Less Than Basic programming. These gains ensure that more students are thoughtfully collaborating with teachers and peers, actively applying their knowledge through better or more creative choices, and working with their teachers to discover principles instead of memorize facts.