School may be out for the summer, but that doesn't mean that learning has to end. In fact, summer learning helps students maintain the essential skills that they gained during the school year. Research collected by the National Summer Learning Association at Johns Hopkins University found that young people experience learning losses when they do not participate in educational activities over the summer. Another study found that “parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do” (Duffett et al, 2004).
Summer presents a great opportunity for students to engage in informal learning through fun activities that take place outside of the classroom. By participating in fun and informal activities that combine science, art and sports, students keep their minds and bodies active and engaged. Many summer activities come in the form of camps and classes, which offer some structure and scheduling benefits for working parents, and allow students to participate in many kinds of activities during the summer.
Not a parent or guardian of a school-age child? You can still help encourage long-term learning by spreading the word about summer programs in your community. Consider volunteering your time or donating materials to an art or science camp.
A quick search of the National After School Science Directory found science-themed camps and summer classes all across the country for all ages and interests. Some highlights include:
The 2010 Summer Archaeology Camp at the El Paso Museum of Archaeology in El Paso, TX, where students will learn “about the science of archaeology, its tools, and the prehistory of the Americas” (http://afterschoolscience.
All Girls All Math camp at the University of Nebraska, where high-school girls will learn about Chaos and Codes mathematics and work with female professionals in the field (http://afterschoolscience.
The Caribbean Conservation Corporation Barrier Island Center Summer Camp in Melbourne Beach, FL, where 2nd-8th grade students will learn all about island ecology and even get to adopt their own sea turtle (http://afterschoolscience.
Still looking for a summer program for your child? Here are some tips for making the most of your summer:
Look at informal learning spaces for unique summer programs. Museums, zoos, and aquariums often have summer camps and classes; teenagers and older students may be able to volunteer and work with younger students.
Check out your local university or community college. College students and professors can act as mentors to your children by inspiring them with real science work.
Don't be afraid to have your children experience something outside of their ordinary level of interest. Encourage them to try new things!
You can encourage long-term learning by engaging with your child before and after their summer camp experience. Ask them what they learned and to share with you any projects that they bring home. Some camp instructors let adults come to portions of camp, especially at the end of the day. You might even learn something too!