An Amazing Summer at Portland LearningWorks Afterschool, a 21st Century Community Learning Center

The Portland LearningWorks Afterschool (LWAS) team had an amazing summer session, supporting students in their growth, learning, and community building. LWAS is a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant-funded program, and works in partnership with Portland Public Schools to operate school year and summer programming at six of the district’s elementary students: Ocean Avenue Elementary School, Presumpscot Elementary School, Reiche Community School, Amanda C. Rowe Elementary, Gerald E. Talbot Community School, and East End Elementary School.

LWAS’ summer camp ran from July 6th – August 11th. Kids participated in a “Bubble Bonanza” STEM unit (developed by the Maine Math and Science Academy), where they used the engineering design process to engineer bubble wands, utilizing a range of various materials (from twine to paper cups and toilet paper rolls). Site staff were responsive to their students’ interests and curiosity, such as exploring the possibility of putting a human inside a bubble, and facilitating a “Bubble Shark Tank”, where students presented their final bubble wands to a panel of their peers, fielding questions from the panel and selling their inventions.

Students also engaged in a number of enrichment clubs, including Lego builds, animal habitats, science, art, and improv. Portland’s LWAS program partnered with a range of community organizations to offer field trips to Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm and Portland Museum of Art. The program also welcomed the crew at 317 Main who joined LWAS sites for a musical “petting zoo”, giving student’s hands-on mini-lessons in ukulele, drumming, fiddle and violin. Students loved playing water games during LWAS’ Waterworks Day, and reveled the opportunity to splash their favorite teachers in the dunk tank!

The summer program came to an end with a culminating celebration of learning. Families, building leaders, and LWAS staff were invited to see their children present their final art projects and bubble wands. Each site put their unique spin on the celebration, such as creating a red carpet event, where students strut down the runway modeling their bubble creations, while others sang favorite songs and created an art gallery of their artwork and bubble wands.

LWAS was thrilled to send students away for the summer with robust home kits to further help reduce summer learning losses. These kits included hands-on materials and activities that encompassed all of the 21st Century Learning Center’s goals for STEAM, multicultural education, literacy, social and emotional learning, and health and wellness.

It was a truly incredible summer, and the Portland LWAS team thanks all of the summer staff, partners, district and building leaders, students, and families for working alongside LWAS in pursuit of a common mission.

Funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program, Maine currently has 35 CCLC grants and 61 CCLC sites across Maine that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly for students who face economic and/or academic challenges. With strong community partnerships at the core of every one of its programs, Maine’s 21st Century Learning Centers help students meet academic goals and offer a broad array of enrichment activities, in addition to other educational and engagement opportunities for communities and families. Learn more about Maine’s CCLC grant opportunities at or reach out to Travis Doughty at