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Summer is an important time for kids in terms of decompressing from their academic year, but it's equally important for them not to lose the skills they gained during that time. Students, particularly at-risk youth, who don't engage in summer learning lose two to three months' worth of math and reading skills during their time off. Yet it's equally important for kids to spend time engaged in play and physical activities. Science NetLinks has some suggestions for how to find a middle ground in order to keep kids learning, but in a fun, informal way.
Most important is for kids to read, or be read to, on a daily basis. Local public libraries are a great way to gain access to lots of books on many different topics, and some schools open their libraries occasionally over the summer or let kids borrow books for the duration of the break. And for those who have access to a mobile device or a computer, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and ustyme are giving away a collection of 50 children's ebooks for free download. Key to the success of summer reading is to let kids pick what interests them in their book selections. SB&F offers suggestions for science-themed graphic novels, bedtime-friendly picture books, and award winners and finalists.
Another important aspect to summer learning is to encourage physical activity and play, particularly because there is a strong correlation between movement and learning. Get kids outside and moving during June, which is Great Outdoors Month, and get them interested in the various competitions that comprise August's Summer Olympics. Check out the night sky. Plant a garden. Conduct a BioBlitz in your backyard or a local park or schoolyard. If your kid has a hard time putting down their devices, harness that interest with these recomended apps for outdoor use.
Other ways to help keep kids learning include having them take a GSK Science in the Summer class, or go on trips to local parks, science centers and museums, zoos, and aquariums. Many offer virtual activities, tours, and exhibitions for those who aren't able to make a physical journey to visit.
You also could encourage the scientific and mathematical side of entrepreneurial, creative, and volunteer efforts. A lemonade stand asks kids to use estimation, measurement, prediction, and money-counting skills. A dog-walking or pet-sitting business might encourage a child to learn more about animal biology and behavior. A neighborhood beautification project might get someone interested in finding about native plants. Citizen science activities are a great way to combine an interest in science with service learning. An art project or a Maker Faire may offer hours of engineering challenges.
Inevitably, there will be days with rain or long car trips. We've got video suggestions, divided up by grade: K–2, 3–5, 6–8, and 9–12; hundreds of short podcasts; and app suggestions for science-themed fun on your computer or mobile device. We've also got some hands-on activities that can be done with minimal supervision and supplies.
July 14 is Summer Learning Day. Let's #KeepKidsLearning, but let's make sure it's fun, too.