Choosing Summer Activities to Inspire Learning

By Dr. Jeri Janowsky, Executive Director of Saturday Academy

The Dogwood trees are in bloom and the sun has started to make its debut in the Pacific Northwest, which also means we’re in the home stretch of the school year. If you’re like many parents, now is also when you’re planning summer activities for your child in the months to come.

As a professional in the field of education, I’ve learned that summer is an important time for children to continue their education or enhance what they’ve learned during the school year. A recent study suggests that children lose learning they had gained during the summer months and this increases throughout elementary and middle school. Fortunately, this learning loss can be mitigated with summer learning opportunities. As you dive into planning your child’s calendar of activities, consider these points to help ensure that not only is your child having fun this summer, but they’re maintaining a sense of wonder.

Summer is a time to spark curiosity and engage children in opportunities supplemental to the classroom

Oftentimes, summer programs are described as “enrichment” programs, implying summer learning is optional. Not true! Summer learning is a great time to supplement and build on school-year learning. It can augment topics from the school year and include camps with field trips that go more in-depth, or explore careers, environments or equipment that there isn’t time or expertise for during the school year.

You may not be too surprised to learn that this is a point many parents already acknowledge as important. A recent study conducted by Saturday Academy and Regina Corso Consulting, showed physical activity, social interaction, exploration of nature and hands-on learning ranked as top priorities for parents enrolling children in summer camps.

Be strategic when choosing a summer program for your child to participate in

There are many characteristics of a summertime program that foster positive experiences and learning for children. Consider having your child participate in a class, camp or activity that includes:

  • Highly-qualified and specially trained staff
  • Smaller class sizes with individualized instruction
  • Sufficient time on task to foster deeper learning
  • Carefully planned, hands-on enrichment activities

To be effective, programs should engage a child intellectually, academically, socially, and emotionally. In addition, they should respond to a child’s interests, experiences and cultural practices.

Even if it’s summer, children like structure and they love to be challenged!

Summer is a time for something NEW

Summer learning is an opportunity for a child to explore something entirely new to them, including new friends from different backgrounds or parts of the city. It can also be a time for “children choose” – that is, children get to choose to go deeper on a topic that interests them, or one that’s entirely new to them, while learning with other, like-minded, curious children.

One of the things parents tell me is that as important as what the child learned, is that their child’s special interest was validated by other children and an expert instructor. It is so important that they see other children as excited as they are about “their” special interests.

An opportunity to follow one’s innate curiosity and learn new skills motivates learning both when school starts in the fall, and for the rest of their life.

Above all, have fun!

First and foremost, learning can and should be fun, particularly when children are engaged in the right activities that support and encourage their interests – because at the end of the day, that’s what summer is all about.

Dr. Jeri Janowsky
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