Classrooms are closed for the summer, but that doesn’t mean learning has to stop. In fact, research shows it’s imperative that it does not.
Today is National Summer Learning Day, aimed at preventing “summer slide” by providing all kids with stimulating and engaging learning options while school is out. Experts estimate students lose up to about two months of material taught during the year if learning is put on hold over the summer. For example, most students lose about two months of math knowledge over the summer, according to the National Summer Learning Association, which is sponsoring today’s event.
Lower-income students are at the greatest risk for summer learning loss and are more likely to experience the effects of that loss long-term. While middle- and low-income kids make similar strides during the year, during the summer, middle-income kids continue to gain while lower-income kids lose ground. Lower-income children have less access to books and technology at home, research shows. And middle-income children have more opportunities to attend summer camp, travel, or to participate in other enrichment activities, all of which they learn from.
According to a study by The Future of Children, low-income families spend seven times less on education enrichment than high-income families, often because summer camps are cost-prohibitive or rare in low-income neighborhoods.
Experts say summer learning should be fun, and emphasize hands-on, project-based activities. In Pittsburgh, Summer16—a collaboration between the city, county, and Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School-Time (Remake Learning is a member)—is a hub for all parents and youth looking for summer enrichment activities. Visitors can search a database of programs packed with activities that vary in cost, location, subject area, and length.
A glance at the offerings reveals that “summer learning” doesn’t have to mean holing up indoors with a math worksheet. Young thespians can perform in Pittsburgh CLO Summer Camp’s rendition of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Green thumbs can grow a garden and turn its bounty into a feast at a Phipps Conservatory summer camp. The whole family can groove to free live music from a solar-powered sound system. And it’s not too late to sign up for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Summer Reading program. They need all the readers they can get if they’re going to reach their goal of 90,000 books read in Pittsburgh this summer.
Even in the absence of formal activities, parents can set goals for kids to complete during their months off. Summer16 suggests active play five days a week, 20 minutes of reading each day, and two open-ended creative projects over the course of the summer. Simple activities like these can flex kids’ creative muscles and build up their confidence before school starts.