Throughout that first summer, I hosted summer playground sessions with students twice a week on the school playground. Teachers showed up at nearly every session to visit and cheer on the students.

Award Ceremony

When fall came, the workbooks were turned into teachers. Our goal was to have 25% of our Title I population return books. To our surprise and joy 42% of students turned in fully completed workbooks. This meant that our kids had read over 100 minutes per week, completed hundreds of math problems and written 8 journal entries over the summer.

The first Summer Award Ceremony was wonderful. Students hooted and cheered, celebrating their perseverance. Teachers sincerely thanked students for keeping all of their knowledge intact over the summer. And students of every ability level were rewarded for their efforts – a breakthrough in elementary school awards.

The following year, other schools requested the books. The name changed to the ThinkStretch Summer Learning Program and I learned basic graphic arts and created original teacher-reviewed math materials. By the end of the second year, all content was original.

ThinkStretch activity books

During that time, signs that I was on the right train of thought abounded. Approval came from the parent and teacher community, to start. Then came invitations to present at the Celebration of Innovation and Excellence event sponsored by the Ann Arbor Public Schools Education Foundation, which has given grants to schools to purchase the program. Encouragement from author and 826 National co-founder Dave Eggers soon followed. Eggers listed my workbooks on his Once Upon a School website, which honors innovation in public education.

I had to make the decision to go big or go home. I was exceeding the limits of personal use for ClipArt and had been served a warning by Microsoft. I decided to go big!

And so ThinkStretch workbook version three – and my business – were born in December 2008, when I hired Quack! Media to create an animated video, graphics, and characters to attract children to the books. 826 Michigan, the Ann Arbor branch of the national non-profit tutoring and creative writing center, helped me develop engaging writing prompts. And artists at letterform drew the professor and brain themed characters.

As ThinkStretch has grown, been adopted by schools, districts and summer programs across the nation, I could not be more proud of the support of the community that offered me such a supportive atmosphere to become engaged and involved in students’ education.

Stop Summer Learning Loss At Your School


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