PLAYBACK: School is Out, Learning is In
6.22.12 | Concerns over the level of academic preparedness in the United States are reflected in numerous stories about how to stem the “summer slide”—the loss of math and reading skills that can occur when the school year ends. Here’s a sampling of recommended activities to keep skills sharp while having fun.
Go Digital: Some summer educators are embracing digital tools to keep students engaged in learning, reports Education Week. In a separate story, Ian Quillen points to a report from WestEd (pdf) that showed students in grades 1-2 who participated in The Electric Company’s Summer Learning Program—a six-week multimedia experience blending new episodes of the TV series, online game play, and other methods of digital instruction—“averaged substantially higher scores in their end-of-program assessments than in similar assessments completed prior to entering the program.”
Head Outdoors: Writing at Mind/Shift, Jennie Rose proposes “10 Awesome Outdoor Summer Learning Ideas,” ranging from hanging a rope swing to going on a high-tech scavenger hunt using a GPS device and coordinates from geocache.com. Or, why not map the Red Planet?
Kids can help scientists improve maps of Mars and participate in other research tasks to aid NASA in managing the large amount of data from the Red Planet. Users create Martian profiles and become “citizens” of the planet. In the map room, they can then earn Martian credits by helping place satellite photos on Mars’s surface, counting craters, and even helping the rovers Spirit and Opportunity by tagging photos with descriptions.
Make it Your Own: “[E]ven if ‘summer slide’ is something of a manufactured concern for the kinds of parents who worry about these things (I don’t really want to be that parent, but who are we kidding?), many of us want to keep our children engaged over the summer,” writes Motherlode blogger KJ Dell’Antonia.
She shares her own ideas for relaxed learning, including resources from educational nonprofits. Wonderopolis, a project of the National Center for Family Literacy, emails a daily answer to an “I wonder” question (today’s question: How does dynamite work?). Bedtime Math sends out math word problems geared for “wee ones,” “little kids,” and “big kids.” Dell’Antonia also references Common Sense Media’s Camp Virtual guide, which helps families find apps, games, and websites with the highest learning ratings.
Make it Fun: Marina Koestler Ruben, author of “How to Tutor Your Own Child: Boost Grades and Inspire a Lifelong Love of Learning — Without Paying for a Professional Tutor,” shares 10 tips on summertime learning. The list includes anytime, anywhere activities like reading, exploring and collecting. Number four on the list is “Build.”
Bring sand toys for even the oldest beachgoers. At home, designate a building location stocked with LEGO pieces, Magna-Tiles, blocks, planks, build-your-own marble run and Rube Goldberg machine components, and other open-ended construction supplies, loose parts, and fort-building supplies.
Read Books: Reading Is Fundamental, the nation’s largest literacy organization, offers free online activities and resources, including Reading Planet for kids and recommended reading lists. RIF and the Library of Congress are behind Book People Unite, a campaign to get books in the hands of kids who need them most. Watch the video with some of your favorite literary characters.
Play Music: Deme Clainos, a spokesman for StudyDog, an online reading program geared toward elementary students, recommends 10 websites that promote learning new skills. Included among them is The New York Philharmonic Kidzone, which may be a great go-to site on rainy days. The site takes kids “backstage” to meet the musicians, learn about their instruments, explore the music of famous composers, and create music of their own.
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