(WXYZ) — As the school year comes to a close, parents across metro Detroit are shifting into summer planning mode.
"The idea was during times when school is out, there are so many opportunities for young people to learn and discover their passions and interests. And so a directory and a campaign to elevate out-of-school-time learning was something that we committed to and continue to offer to the region," said Sara Elliott, executive director of the Youth Development Resource Center.
She said they have been growing their "Discover Your Spark" directory for years.
It’s a searchable online database that helps parents find summer programming in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.
"You can search by location, you can put in your zip code, the types of activities ... whether it's free or low cost, or there's scholarships," said Sara.
From arts to sports, science to math, Sara said there are more than 100 programs in the directory for kids ages 4 to 18. Organizers say programs are added regularly.
"We're really glad the platform's here during this time as we're re-emerging from the pandemic, there's going to be a lot of need," said Sara.
Jenee Graham is the club director at the Dick and Sandy Dauch Club with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan.
She said because of how isolated most children have been during the pandemic, getting them involved in summertime activities is paramount.
"Ever since COVID, a lot of kids have been in their homes, even with schools opening back up, a lot of our kids are still virtual or hybrid. There's a lot of restrictions within the schools, so a lot of the kids don't have recess and like gym games and things like that. So it's very important for them to be involved in summer programming where they can be able to see their friends and get those youth development skills that they could be lacking in school," said Jenee.
And that academic development, organizers say, can limit learning loss or what people call the “summer slide."
Sara said parents should feel encouraged to ask questions of program providers before making a choice for their kids.
"What do you want to see for COVID safety this summer? ... how supportive is the program? How do they make sure it's emotionally safe, not just physically safe for the kids? And then what skills are the young people building in the program? So what are they going to learn? How are they going to engage? And most importantly, is it going to be fun? You know, kids this summer in particular, like we just need to reconnect and have fun and be outside," said Sara.
The hope, she said, is that the Discover Your Spark directory will be a helpful and welcome tool for parents.
"Just remember as a parent that you have a whole community of people helping you raise your children. And schools are not the only place for learning. Learning happens all day and all spaces in all different ways," she said.