SummerTrek: A Journey of Self-Discovery and Community Problem-Solving


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SummerTrek is . . .

A Summertime Expanded Learning Program for Middle School Youth

SummerTrek is a four-to-six-week customized expanded learning program designed to engage middle school students as community problem-solvers. Through a series of personally motivating and dynamic project-based activities, participating youth become “trekkers”, developing and building upon their interests, skills, and expertise in the process of making positive contributions to their communities and to the world. 

Responsive to a Critical Need

Summertime loss of up to three months of learning and skill development significantly widens the achievement gap between disadvantaged youth and their peers. Quality summer programming opportunities are scarce, especially for middle school students in under-resourced schools and communities or from economically challenged families.


SummerTrek builds upon several years of research and pilot testing aligned with quality principles for out-of-school time educational enrichment, service-learning and positive youth development. The program presents 75 to 100 hours of engaging activities, providing the duration and intensity that research shows are needed to develop solid outcomes in learning and civic engagement.

Step-by-Step and Easy to Follow

SummerTrek provides a comprehensive, step-by-step program engaging youth in five iterative service-learning processes: Investigation, Preparation and Planning, Action, Reflection, and Demonstration/Celebration. Included introductory and ongoing professional development for program teachers and facilitators ensures high-quality implementation.


SummerTrek promotes learning and skill development in academic literacy, college and career readiness, and civic engagement. The summer months are an optimal time to introduce youth to positive activities that reinforce and build upon knowledge, skills, and attributes taught during the school year. Each SummerTrek activity links to specific Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts/Literacy; to the “Four C’s” of college, career, and workforce readiness skills (Critical thinking and problem solving, Creativity and innovation, Communication, and Collaboration); and to the four dimensions of the C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards.

Designed to Promote Civic Participation

Tapping into the middle school student’s quest for affirmation, recognition, and desire to make a difference, SummerTrek links students to their community and helps them acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to think critically about civic issues. Students identify, learn about, and prepare to address a selected community challenge, and gain an enhanced civic awareness of themselves, their school and local communities, the United States, and the world in relationship to their selected theme.

SummerTrek: Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  How much time do we need to allocate to the program?

A:  SummerTrek can be customized to fit an existing summer program framework, as long as the implementation is given sufficient duration (at least 70 hours all together) to produce the desired academic literacy, career readiness, and civic engagement outcomes.

Q:  Do we need to have a certified teacher facilitate SummerTrek?

A:  No – although each activity in the provided curriculum intentionally integrates in-school teaching and learning goals and is aligned to learning standards. At sites where the program’s facilitators are not in-school certified teachers, ICP encourages close consultation with school academic /curricular leadership to enhance the full outcomes of these learning goals.

Q:  We don’t know much about service-learning.  Will there be training for the program facilitators?

A:  ICP staff introduces SummerTrek with a two-day in-person professional development orientation for all program teachers/facilitators. These session will include specific instruction in all of the expectations of the curriculum, explaining how best to help youth acquire critical academic literacy skills from various program activities; how to incorporate specific career readiness skill development into each activity; and how to structure student civic engagement. Additional weekly conference calls and/or webinars throughout the 6 weeks of the program provide facilitators with continuous support.

Q:  Will we need to have internet access for all participating youth in order to implement the program?

A:  Ideally, yes. The provided activities often require student access to technology as part of the literacy and career and workforce readiness goals of the program. Web research enhances knowledge and skills as students seek to learn about their community and to add to their understanding of the civic issue or problem they have identified.

Q:  Is there a maximum or minimum number of youth participants that you are looking for in the program?

A:  SummerTrek has been designed for an average of 15 to 25 middle school youth in a cohort, participating throughout the full four-to-six weeks of the program, enabling students to engage in high-quality personalized and teamwork experiences.

Q:  What if we don’t have experience in the community issue areas that students will be addressing?

A:  SummerTrek teachers/facilitators are not expected to have prior expertise or experience in a particular issue area. The curriculum provides specific activities for each selected project area, as well as additional research and resources. SummerTrek was intentionally designed for flexibility. Upon request, SummerTrek program developers will collaborate with an implementing site to develop customized curricular materials to incorporate site-identified project issues.

Q:  Are you planning to evaluate the outcomes of the program? 

A:  Yes! ICP is committed to assessment of outcomes of student learning and civic engagement, and is prepared to work with the participating site to implement an optional in-house student and community evaluation process. ICP is also interested in facilitating an independent external evaluation of the program, and can connect the participating site to an appropriate assessment team. Both processes involve additional costs.

To learn more about bringing SummerTrek to your school or community, please contact Susan Stroud at