Undoubtedly, this past National Summer Learning Day was the most successful one yet with more events and programs, more awareness and more kids reached than ever before! The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) shares this success with our newest partners at Dig-iT! Games. Their team is dedicated to tackling the summer slide through the excitement of game-based learning and just this week launched ExoTrex, a space adventure game created in association with Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi, Chief Science Officer at Discovery/Science Channel.
This special issue features a new Summer Learning Day infographic here and an exclusive conversation with this renowned astrophysicist, inventor, educator and voice of the game’s lead character, Dr. Gerald Burke, who is tasked with finding a new habitable planet and saving humanity!
With five degrees, 80 publications, 11+ patents and international recognition for his contribution to science, astrophysics, high-performance computing and work with the 100 Year Starship Project under his belt, Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi never loses sight of his past and has made it his life’s mission to help young and underfunded scientists have a chance to reach for the stars. And we had the wonderful opportunity to interview him!
NSLA: What role does digital gaming take in the battle to fight summer learning loss?
Hakeem: Games are a perfect tool to keep kids engaged in learning throughout the summer months. In addition to just being fun, games build content knowledge, problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, improve executive function skills, 21st century skills, technology skills, Literacy and Math skills, and so much more. Who doesn’t want to be an archaeologist, or search through Mayan pyramids or explore space in an engaging game? Digital games help low-performing students catch up and motivates them to learn more.
NSLA: According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are growing fast. What are our nation’s youth doing right now in the field of STEM?
Hakeem: Today’s kids are as curious and inventive as any other generation. I’ve witnessed this first hand as a professor, a science fair judge, and while judging the Discovery/3M Young Scientist’s Challenge. I’ve noticed how today’s youth are using new technologies to address new challenges. They’re also recognizing how today’s technologies can be repurposed to solve new problems. While I’ve noticed that many students have access to advanced scientific, computational and engineering resources, as well as access to professionals; there is also the troubling trend of under education and lack of access for many of our kids. The educational levels of parents and of communities has a significant impact on kids’ access to information and training. How can we overcome the differences in parents’ education levels, communities’ resources, and school quality? That’s a problem that has concerned me for some time.
NSLA: Despite the environment where you grew up, you have seen great success in a field you love. What would you like to say to NSLA’s audience of teachers and program providers about supporting young people in really challenging environments?
Hakeem: My message is to nourish kids and show them that you believe in them.

My childhood involved moving to a new school every year. And each time it was in communities that most Americans would describe as the ghetto. These include Houston’s South Park and Third Ward, New Orleans 9th Ward and “The Goose,” and the Watts and Inglewood communities near Los Angeles.

One of the most powerful things that happened to me was when teachers singled me out to get me involved in academic and music competitions. There were so many people telling me that I was “bad.” Were it not for those teachers who told me they saw something and who pulled me into more productive activities, the negative would have won.

Dig-iT! Games has been connecting low-income students with game-based learning through their “Get One, Give One initiative,” fighting to end summer learning loss. With every game purchased or downloaded, a game is provided to a low-income student.

Purchase ExoTrex today and start exploring space through STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) puzzles and problem-solving exercises that empower students in grades 8-10 to engage in active thinking and deeper learning. Learn more about the new ExoTrex space adventure.
We thank Dig-iT! Games for being a fantastic National Summer Learning Day partner and for providing educational games to our nation’s youth.


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