Top five ways to suppress summer learning loss

The impact of summer activities go beyond the “fun factor.”

Summer is fast approaching and many parents are thinking about how their youngster can spend the balmy days. For older generations recalling days of summer past, there is lingering nostalgia for a long afternoon by the community pool or playing in the neighborhood until the ball disappears in the darkness. Today’s young people experience a very different summer routine.

What effect does the summer experience have on academic achievement levels? Research suggests a significant summer learning loss occurs, also referred to as “brain drain.” Most at risk are math and science proficiency, which show the most significant decrease over the three months of summer break.

Generally, when we have opportunities to practice learned concepts, we are more able to retain knowledge that we have acquired. Summer time is built in for a break from school, but that doesn't mean we should take a complete break from practicing what we've learned. Staying sharp doesn’t mean sacrificing fun.

Michigan State University Extension has five ways to combat the learning loss during the long school break.

1. Volunteer in your community

Volunteering offers opportunities for hands-on learning and skill-building. Don’t have an organization in mind? Youth can try shadowing someone in a career they are interested in, or volunteer at your local public library or at a summer camp.

2. Join an educational summer program

Educational camps run a gamut of venues and experiences. Enroll your child in a summer camp program that highlights core subjects through real-world experiences. Special interest and sports camps allow kids to build life skills that will contribute to their development. Alternative environments, such as MSU Tollgate Farm Summer Camp, allow the learning to be organic and non-competitive.

3. Check in with your local public library

Many public libraries offer summer reading programs, clubs and engaging book lists. Many offer incentives to keep youth reading without the nagging. Does your child have an energetic social side? Find a program that meets in person.

4. Explore new hobbies or interests

Some opportunities lie just beyond a simple request: find a neighbor bee keeper, graphic designer or wood smith to ask about apprenticeship opportunities. Youth programs such as 4-H allow new clubs to be created and continue into the summer. See if your child wants to take up piano or trade skills through a mentoring program. Summer may allow kids to explore activities that they may not have had time for in the school year.

5. Value this abundance in family time

It can be amazing how trips to the zoo, nature center or local farm can spur a child’s curiosity. Going on a trip to visit a historical site or nature center gives students the opportunity to make relative associations to classroom concepts. The learning comes alive when a child feels connected to the people, places and things. Even educational family board games can reinforce knowledge and skills. When you have a break from the busy rush of schedules, don’t forget to enjoy it with the whole family!

By involving your child in activities and exposing them to activities in the summer, your child gets the opportunity to inquire and explore, reduce brain drain and make memories that will last forever.

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