Best Practices to Conduct Summer School Programs

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Have you ever found an old dried up sponge under your sink? It’s been there for ages, doing nothing; serving no purpose. Kids are natural sponges. It’s up to us to squeeze them a bit so knowledge can continue to be absorbed.

A “program” is defined as “a plan of action to accomplish a specified end.” A program can be costly…but it can also be free. A “summer school program” can take place anywhere from specialized camps at universities to your backyard. The Summer School Program you decide upon for your child should accomplish the “specified end” a continued journey into lifelong learning. Today’s blog is a brief chat about a few best practices that can be a supplemental to formal programs or a stand-alone summer learning plan.

A report from The National Summer Learning Association reported that 66% of teachers feel that it takes at least four weeks to re-teach material to students at the beginning of each school year to get them back on the track of “learning.” This number is appalling! …and preventable. “Learning” is not something that can be wrapped into a box of 180 days X 6 hours! Lifelong learning skills should be implemented continuously; a weekend is not a “break from learning,” nor is summer!

The months of vacation from the end of one school year to the start of the next should be filled with summer activities for kids. The cost for these can be 0-hundreds of dollars. The price is not necessarily commensurate of the value received. Due to the number of two-parent working homes, daycare and summer camp-for-money programs must sometimes be limited by the dollar amount that parents can afford for more costly supplemental options, but that doesn’t mean that learning should take a vacation! Every library in the nation has a FREE Summer Reading program for children. These are broken into age groups and usually offer some reward system from stickers to free books. Books are our most valuable resource and reading should be something that all of us do daily! A weekly visit to the library should be on everybody’s list! The value received goes up when this is an activity shared between parent and child. Through books you and your children can “travel” to far off lands and excitement; investigate the world of lions and tigers and bears…or insects, plants…oh YEAH! Oh, my!

A summer learning plan can be put into action with a small amount of effort. Make a list of activities in which you can participate over the summer weeks. Brainstorm! No idea is ridiculous or unworthy of consideration. Leave yourself open to “teachable moments”… know, when your child sees a dandelion that she wants to use for a wish and a fairytale blow, or when an empty cicada shell can be removed from the bark of a tree and used as an accouterment on your son’s shirt. Talk about why and how these things occurred, yellow flower to puffball and big flying bug to fun shell pin. The list can include simple things that can be done spontaneously; for example, a stop at the local fire station. Firefighters love to show off their trucks and equipment; they enjoy it when a parent pops in with a child. The child loves sitting in the cab of the truck and having pictures taken with a fireman’s hat, too. A farm stand on the side of the road can lead to a discussion about crops and farmers, or even the senses. Close your eyes, smell each piece of fruit or vegetable, open your eyes, look at the colors! A visit to the zoo can spark an interest in animal conservation. Science can come alive in the backyard with a mixture of cornstarch and water. Put 5 Tablespoons of cornstarch into a plastic cup, add a few drops of water and have your child stir, add a few drops at a time until the mixture is smooth. Pour into your child’s hands and have him manipulate the mixture, it will form a ball. Stop working it, and it becomes a thick liquid that oozes through fingers. Cool, stuff! If there are a lot of children, use a large plastic bowl and a box of cornstarch. This washes off quickly with a hose and is loads of fun…and cheap!

Summer offers the opportunity to study the weather; clouds are different, rainstorms are often accompanied by thunder and lightning, why? Why are there so many tornadoes in the mid-west? What is a hurricane? Wow! I’m on a roll! Throw a towel down on the grass in your backyard and watch the sky with your child. Discuss shapes, colors, birds, sounds. Go to a park. While walking and playing ask what else your child sees and hears.

Have you ever found an old dried up sponge under your sink? It’s been there for ages, doing nothing; serving no purpose. Kids are natural sponges. It’s up to us to squeeze them a bit so knowledge can continue to be absorbed. Encourage active participation in all situations. Talk to you child! Let her ask questions. Don’t worry if you don’t know the answer…you are participating in lifelong learning, too. Discover together. Create your own Summer School Program, whether supplemental to camps or full-time. Your best practices can be as simple as a walk in the park or as dramatic as a typhoon in the Pacific…

Here’s one last suggestion to use the sponge analogy. Cut a sponge into quarters. Put each quarter into a clear plastic cup. Add water and sprinkle a few seeds on each. Keep the sponge moist and soon the seeds will sprout, roots growing into the sponge as its foundation. Your child is the seed. You are water. You are both the sponge. Placed on the sponge without water, the seed sits and does nothing. With water, the seed interacts with the sponge giving new life! Use this summer to create your program of best practices. If possible, use academic and fun camps and programs; learning is sparked through both. But, this summer, plan to squeeze a sponge or two. I think you’ll love the resulting growth.

Related Links

Fun Summer Learning Programs


Gail Agor

Gail Agor is a veteran teacher with over 22 years of experience teaching. She began her career as a Gifted Resource Specialist for identified intellectually gifted students. She then became the Assistant Director of Lifelong Learning in charge of youth classes and camps at a college in Maryland. Ms. Agor, known for her creativity and fun interactive teaching style, is a sought-after public speaker for conferences and training sessions. For the last 7 years she has taught, tutored and taught volunteer conversation classes to adult ESL students in Central Florida.