Birmingham Summer Institute

Empowering students to become agents of change in their community and world.

BSI empowers students from underserved populations to explore their own identities and become agents of change in their schools, communities, and beyond through academic excellence, exposure to enriching activities, and social and emotional development. Our vision is to be a model learning community inspiring the love of learning, the realization of internal power, and the belief that all students can achieve greatness. Register here for Summer 2022!

Our top priority for BSI is to meet the holistic needs of all of our students while centering our program activities around their personalities and cultures. We value what our students bring to the classroom and create experiences for them to learn new information independently. This empowers them to ask their own questions and make their own observations.

BSI 2021 By The Numbers

5-week program

17 Hours of Math Instruction

17 Hours of Reading Instruction

20 Hours of Enrichment

20 Hours of Physical Education

4,661 Meals Served

94.9% Minority

5.3 Months Growth in Math

4.9 Months Growth in Reading


At the Institute, we believe that math education should be focused around conceptual understanding rather than procedures. A student that is flexible in their ability to use different strategies to find the most efficient way to solve a problem with accuracy is much better equipped to thrive in the 21st century than a student who has merely memorized one way to solve problems. According to Adding it Up, “…U.S. students may not fare badly when asked to perform straightforward computational procedures, but tend to have limited understanding of mathematical concepts.” In other words, our nation’s students can typically only apply their math knowledge in the specific context in which it was taught.

In order to assess their understanding outside of those contexts, we have chosen each year to accompany the RenStar diagnostic test with our own assessment interviews conducted by Dr. Witherspoon, professor of math and Social Studies in the Department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education at UAB. While a student may be able to hide gaps in conceptual understanding on a paper exam, it is much more difficult when a math professional is pushing you to explain how you know what it is that you know.


At the core of any successful literacy classroom is developing a love of reading in students by using reading content that is interesting to students and relevant to their lives. In doing so, “kids are compelled by what they are learning[;] they are eager to think, question, and investigate…a range of texts and resources to find answers,” according to Harvey and Goudvis. Our first step toward sparking a love of reading was interviewing each student to determine their likes, dislikes, and attitude towards reading. We then began allowing the kids to create their own library based on their interests. We allow students to create their own libraries with books they choose! Our first year we ended up with over 400 books, the next summer our teachers and fellows had collectively checked out almost 1000 books from many Birmingham libraries for the kids to choose from.


At BSI, we want to expose our students to as many different types of people, fields, and activities that empower them to explore themselves and what their likes, dislikes, interests, and passions are. This enrichment develops a broad reservior of experience for each child to pull from and look to as a guide as they make decisions to grow.