HAWTHORN – In the stands watching the Pittsburgh Pirates take on the Seattle Mariners this evening (Wednesday) at PNC Park will be a handful of Redbank Valley Intermediate School students and their parents. These students are there because of their participation in the Summer Slugger program.

Powered by Everfi, Summer Slugger is a digital learning program that offers activities in math and literacy designed to reinforce skills that students who are entering fifth grade learned during their fourth grade year.

“Summer Slugger is designed to combat the ‘Summer Slide,’” said Alyssa Lyons, director of K12 implementation for Everfi. Lyons explained that the concepts covered in Summer Slugger scaffold so that students in outgoing fourth grade continue to build their skills into the beginning of fifth grade. “The goal is to lessen the need to re-teach concepts from the year prior, allowing for more and deeper instructional time.”

The program was introduced at RVIS last year through elementary computer teacher Kristen Landers, who learned about Summer Slugger while attending a professional development conference.

“This is something I would have appreciated as a kid,” Landers said of why she encourages students to participate each year. “It’s not only fun but also benefits the students.”

Consisting of a series of 36 educational baseball-themed games focusing on math and literacy, Summer Slugger allows students the opportunity to complete the program at their own pace over the course of the summer.

According to an informational packet on the program, “the personalized paths in Summer Slugger allow students to stay challenged while they maintain and improve their skills.” Games are designed to take no longer than 10 minutes each to complete.

“It was really fun,” fifth-grader Kaden Sturgeon said of the Summer Slugger games. “Once I got into it, I couldn’t stop playing.”

“I want to thank Mrs. Landers for giving us this opportunity,” fifth-grader Landon Stepulla added.

Although she had two students complete the series last year, Landers said that the opportunity to earn tickets to a Pirates game was not available.

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“I was surprised when I learned that I could order Pirates tickets for my kids this year,” she said, noting that the Pittsburgh Pirates partnered with Everfi to sponsor this year’s Summer Slugger program in the local area. “I was excited that the kids could earn tickets by working in the Summer Slugger program. It’s a great opportunity.”

This year, she noted, a total of 70 incoming fifth-graders participated in the Summer Slugger program. Ten students — including Leland Ingram, Taylor McNaughton, Savannah Bentley, Kaden Sturgeon, Emma Hetrick, Makenzie Adams and Landon Stepulla — were able to hit the designated milestone, earning them each the opportunity for a pair of Pirates baseball tickets for the Wednesday, Sept. 18 game in Pittsburgh.

Two of the students — McNaughton and Hetrick — completed the entire program and were awarded certificates for their efforts.

“Once I got started I figured there was no sense in stopping,” Hetrick said of what motivated her to complete all 36 series.

In addition to the tickets and certificates, the students will be recognized in front of their peers during an all school assembly.

“I am very proud of my students,” Landers said. “When they learned that they could earn tickets to a Pirates game they jumped at the opportunity to work for it. I am excited to hear all about the game on Thursday.”

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