Summer Learning Loss

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Youth working on a circuit

Lee County 4-H Summer STEAM Electronics Camp

As the world is greening up our thoughts are turning to summer and summer vacation. Programs all around Lee County are announcing their answer to summer statements like, “I am bored” and “there is nothing to do.”  Lee County 4-H released our schedule of day camps on April 15, 2019, to address the increasingly prevalent phenomena of summer learning loss. According to a Fairchild & Baulay 2002 study, young people are at high risk of losing knowledge during the summer if their minds are not engaged and consistently stimulated. The extent of loss is directly proportional to the grade level, subject matter, and family income. Young people participating in summer programming of any kind can predictably lessen this loss. Sadly, there is a summer after summer cumulative effect on the lower income child that widens any in-school gaps that are present as school vacations begin.

There is a striking video on YouTube from NBC’s Brian Williams where he discusses how summer learning loss puts students at an academic disadvantage by visually comparing low-income and middle-income children. The reality is that income will most likely determine whether a child continues to learn during the summer. Income allowing families are more able to pack up the trunk and head out for vacation destinations that stimulate the brain either relationally, physically, and/or mentally. Income allowing families may communicate with teachers at year end and may have one parent at home to follow through with important advice to keep reading books and practicing math skills, the two subjects most affected by summer learning lost. Income allowing families to have greater resources and flexibility to sign their children up for summer learning camps and provide transportation to get there. Contrast this with low-income children who may potentially find themselves isolated, hungry, and bored.

There are ways to decrease this reality that makes those first days in the fall so difficult for our teachers and the entire school year difficult for some of our students. At the close of the school year, teachers can relay plans to promote summer learning by encouraging parents to require children to read and work on math skills. This simple but effective strategy can educate a parent who may have no idea about summer learning loss and the effect on their child. The Lee County Library offers free summer programs intended to spark interest and get a child’s nose into a book. The Boys and Girls Clubs, Project Liftoff, and YMCA are partnering with organizations like 4-H to bring fun and engaging learning camps to their members.

In Lee County, we are ‘committed today for a better tomorrow’ and 4-H meets that motto perfectly while also adding ours which is, ‘to make the best better.’  Our summer STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) camps are high quality because we have access to research-based curriculum, multiple hours to focus on one subject, outstanding volunteers, very low enrollment fees and small class sizes. This is the perfect formula to prevent summer learning loss, and we have planned several low-cost, high-impact camp weeks including Physics, Agriculture Science, Horticulture Science, Cooking, and Electricity. Our camp page has more information and how to register.

Help spread awareness of summer learning loss and eliminate low-income learning gaps by sharing information about educational activities offered over the summer. Ensure our students return to school in the fall ready to build on an enriching summer, and together we can create a better tomorrow and make the best better.