Today is “National Summer Learning Day,” an effort that encourages parents and others to keep their children engaged in educational activities during the long summer break.
Summer Learning Day is a nationwide advocacy effort that stresses the importance of summer learning. The National Summer Learning Association is reaching out today to families, teachers, principals, city officials, school boards and others to encourage them to help keep children engaged in educational activities over the summer.
Children experience learning losses when they don’t engage in educational activities during the summer, according to the association, which serves as a network hub for summer learning program providers nationwide. They provide tools, resources and expertise to generate support and increase youth participation.
The association says research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they did on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.
There are numerous other studies that show the long summer break leads to “brain drain,” requiring teachers to spend a lot of time in the fall on review instead of teaching new material.
“We need to keep our children engaged year-round. School can be learning in a museum, learning online, it can be learning in so many areas that are hands-on, by reading a new book … There are free things that kids and families can go and do. It’s keeping your mind active,” said Leslie Dombek, an elementary school teacher with the Capistrano Connections Academy, a free, accredited online school for K-12 students.
The online school, based in Aliso Viejo and under charter with the Capistrano Unified School District, welcomes students from Orange, Riverside, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties, and it serves about 1,900 students.
Capistrano Connections let out last Friday for the summer, and Dombek said teachers there have been talking to parents about the importance of keeping their kids engaged in learning over the summer. The idea is to get students and parents to consider school as something that lasts all year.
The Academy is piloting a new online public summer school program this summer – enrollment is closed now –and hopes to expand it next summer for all grades, she said.
Considering that the presidential election is coming up in November, Capistrano Connections Academy further suggested six fun family activities as one timely way to teach children about government and voting during the summer break:
- Designate a day when your child is “President for a Day.” Discuss the president’s role and responsibilities and create a schedule for what your child would do on his or her one day as president.
- Visit a local historical site or government building, such as city hall. Be sure to brush up on a few facts about the location before you go and take guided tours where offered.
- Have children write a short essay or poem starting with, “If I were President, I would…”
- Hold your own election! Families can create a homemade ballot box and ballots. Hold a family vote to determine what to have for dinner, places to visit, or things to do this summer.
- Families can track candidate campaign trails on a map using color-coded pins, yarn or markers. In November, watch the election to see how each state voted.
- Create a game of “election bingo” that encourages students to read the newspaper and keep up with election news.
Dombek also suggested parents check their public library and local museums, both of which hold children’s activities year-round. Museums also have free admission days, she noted.
More info and summer learning resources for parents: www.summerlearning.org.
Amy Bentley is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.