How do you stop summer learning loss? The play's the thing


BRATTLEBORO -- Like fresh vegetables from the garden, New England Youth Theatre's Brave Young Vaudevillians program tastes so good, kids won't know it's good for them.

That's the plan of co-director Amelia Struthers, who is counting on parents to keep it on the down-low that this summer-long program is based on sound educational principles.

"Brave Young Vaudevillians is awesome because it's more than just summer camp, it's really attending to what is called the performance gap or the achievement gap," said Struthers.

More to the point, Brave Young Vaudevillians is designed as a tool to address summer learning loss, to which much of the achievement gap is attributed. Over the summer, as they are away from school, students lose ground. Brave Young Vaudevillians aims to keep that loss to a minimum -- but don't worry, the kids won't know; they'll be too busy having a blast.

Launched last year, Brave Young Vaudevillians expands this year to include ages 6-9. It runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., each day, in two-seek sessions -- June 23 to July 4, July 7-18, July 21 to Aug. 1 and Aug. 4-15. Kids may attend one, some or all the sessions.

Struthers and co-director Amy Majer have a designed a program that combines NEYT's trademark theater work with good, clean summertime fun.

Each session will including making a theater piece from scratch, from dreaming it up to writing it, staging it and performing it, as well as plenty of play time that includes theater games and just plain silliness; and outdoor time that includes the pool, slip ‘n' slide, hula hoops, frisbees and outdoor games and more. There is also built in time to chill out, and enjoy lunch (NEYT is a federal free lunch program site).

"It's not just a performance space here," said Struthers, whose own daughter is a veteran of 10 years of involvement in NEYT programs. "I've always noticed that this is a really exemplary youth development program.

"There's a method behind the madness," she added. "Overall, it's about having fun, but it's also about enrichment."

Along the way, guest performers and artists will come in to teach juggling, dance, comedy improv, costuming, make-up, you name it.

"We're really taking advantage of the creative community," she said.

Struthers and Majer will be ably aided by teens from NEYT's Mentors program, who have already worked to have the Early Education Express Bookmobile to make stops at Brave Young Vaudevillians.

All the staff will work to make the sessions a place where all kids feel safe and free to be themselves, Struthers said.

Sessions take place at New England Youth Theatre, 100 Flat St., although there may be a field trip or two to nearby fun spots.

The cost is $450 per session. To register, contact Michelle Meima at or 802-246-6398, ext. 101


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