When it comes to education, one of the most difficult issues to address is the summer learning gap. This gap takes places during the summer months, approximately two and a half months, in which a student is out of school and, consequently, isn’t learning new skills or retaining what they’ve learned during the prior year. Instead, students are spending time at home, hanging out with friends, playing video games, watching movies and doing other activities. While some of this time might be well spent, there is an overall deficit when it comes to the opportunities that kids are able to take advantage of.
The gap, however, isn’t only confined to summer. Because students forget what they’ve learned and fail to learn new skills or information during their time off, teachers are forced to review material that had been taught the previous school year. This make up time extends the gap, at least, another month. Valuable time and resources are being used to repeat what has already been accomplished.
So, now, we must ask ourselves what the next step is. What do we do during the summer in order to ensure that children are keeping up and not falling behind? The most important thing is to be aware of local opportunities that will give our students a chance at success and empower them to stay active and engaged.
It may not be a popular option, but summer school is an invaluable resource not only for students who are struggling or need additional academic assistance, but also for those who wish to keep practicing what they know and, even, learn new things. Doing this would prepare for them for the upcoming school year and, unlike normal school hours, it is not a full day commitment. More often than not, students are let out by late morning or early afternoon, depending on the classes they’re taking.
Another option available to many kids are summer programs. With Salt Lake County’s Division of Youth Services, summer programs are offered to middle school students in Kearns and Magna. These programs emphasize STEM related activities to teach problem solving and critical thinking skills, athletic and extracurricular activities, art exploration and the opportunity to try and learn new things through field trips and guest speakers.
Additionally, for those who may not be located in Kearns or Magna, the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Valley offers their own summer programs throughout the county. Their various programs are available to students ages three through eighteen. With the University of Utah, kids are able to attend different classes, focusing on STEM, sports and recreation, high school preparation, art and more.
Reading and Literacy
An important note to make is the lack of reading that takes place during the summer months. None of us should expect these kids to be reading Shakespeare or the Bhagavad Gita, but they should, at the very least, be reading something. It can be as simple as the Hunger Games and Harry Potter, or the daily newspaper and a short biography on a notable historical figure. The ability to not only read, but understand what you’re reading, is an important skill that must constantly be developed during the whole year and not only when school is in session.
These examples are all things students can take advantage of during the summer. Learning and personal development aren’t a part time job that should only be taken seriously for nine months out of the year. It’s an obligation and a path to success for the future. Being able to learn new skills and comprehend them extends into a student’s studies and academic performance and also assists in who they are to become.