10 Imaginative Ways To Avoid Summer Brain Drain
Summertime and the living is easy... Barefoot kids run through sprinklers, climb trees, and dance on the beach. Days are filled with sun and sand and we stay up late to watch fireworks light-up the night sky. Desks and school books are a distant memory. Before you leave the learning behind, however, beware of the summer slide!
Some types of learning, particularly mathematics and language, require almost daily practice to maintain. When we let education "slide" over the summer, there is a learning loss of up to two months worth of school, according to the National Summer Learning Association. This summer brain drain means that the first month or more of school is spent reviewing skills from the previous year.
We want to stay sharp but no one wants to be stuck inside studying on a glorious summer afternoon. So, to keep learning fun, you have to get clever!
1. Look for the Learning in Everything: Almost anything can be educational if you look for the opportunities. Divide a dozen cookies equally among friends. Study the different states of matter when you make ice pops. See what objects sink or swim in your water table.
2. Enjoy the Outdoors: During the summer, the world is our laboratory. Take a nature hike and learn about maps and orienteering. Collect, count, and compare shells on the beach. Allow the natural world to inspire you to write a poem. Plant a butterfly garden. There is no limit to the possibilities you can explore in nature.
3. Check Out Local Resources: During the summer, there are often free or discounted events at local children's and other museums, aquariums, planetariums, zoos, nature preserves, and wildlife rescue centers. We always enjoy the visit from the "Wolf Ambassador" and the "Birds of Prey" shows at our local wildlife rescue and spend lots of time with the fish and penguins at the aquarium.
4. Join a Book Club: Teens will be more motivated to read if they read together. Younger kids often enjoy "reading incentive" programs at a local library. In any form, book clubs make the reading experience more social.
5. Pursue an Interest: Education experts often talk about "meeting a child where he is". Children learn so much more effectively when they are interested and summer is a great time to explore a topic in more depth. Swimmers can learn the science of keeping a pool healthy or research the benefits of saline versus chlorine pool systems. Runners may be fascinated by the biology of their musculature or use math skills to calculate their target heart rate. Fashionistas can practice their measuring skills and design an outfit or learn about the history of fashion. And all students can read biographies of their role models.
6. Launch a Project: Authentic opportunities for learning allow kids to have a real impact. During summer vacation, there is time to plan and launch a big project. Hold a fundraiser and then buy plants and trees to help to beautify the neighborhood. Launch a one act play with other future stars. Whether kids are budgeting, fundraising, applying for a grant, promoting an event, or recruiting volunteers, the learning will be as big as their dreams.
7. Immerse Yourself in a Culture: Make new friends, practice a language, and learn about another culture during the summer. Contact a local cultural center to find out if there are groups that include other children of the same age. At home, make foods from that cultural tradition and explore art and cultural artifacts at a local museum.
8. Try a New Activity: If your child has always thought about starting a new musical instrument, learning to make jewelry, taking up woodworking, or any other new activity, summer usually has room in the schedule to try something new without a big commitment. She may even discover a hidden talent!
9. Play Games: On rainy or sweltering days, break out the games. Card games help young children with number recognition and counting. Chess is a great brain-boosting game for ages 5, and up. At any toy store you can find puzzles for all ages, including 3D puzzles, traditional jigsaw puzzles, and other innovative problem-solving games.
10. Use Technology...Selectively: There are a lot of computer programs out there that promise to boost learning but summer is no time to be stuck in front of a screen all day. There are apps that get kids learning outdoors, interactive websites to plan museum visits, and games and devices that facilitate reading or learning a new skill. Before I introduce a piece of "educational" technology, I always ask myself, how does this help my kids get excited something in real life? If a star-gazing app is a worthwhile addition if it gets them looking up at the night sky and dreaming of the stars.
With a little imagination, you can stop the summer slide with a whole lot of fun!