STEMing Summer Learning Loss

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How can you 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 consistently engaged and stimulated. The extent of this loss is directly proportional to the grade level, subject matter, and family income. Sadly, there is also a  cumulative effect on the lower income child as summer after summer, they fall further behind, widening any in-school gaps that were present when summer vacation began.

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. Families with higher income levels can pack up the trunk and head out for vacation destinations that stimulate the brain relationally, physically, and/or mentally. Income-allowing families may communicate with teachers at year-end. They 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 loss. Income-allowing families also have more significant 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.

Camps, workshops, and classes can promote summer learning. Parents can also provide content for their children to read and work on at their own pace. 4-H’s high-quality and trusted summer fun programs, adventure camps, and teen trips are a fun way to stay connected to friends and spark interest in new subjects. We have the perfect formula to prevent summer learning loss! So instead of being subjected to the cries of “I’m bored” and “there’s nothing to do,” you can take advantage of high-quality 4-H educational opportunities. In Lee County, we are ‘committed today for a better tomorrow,’ and 4-H meets that motto perfectly while also adding ours, ‘to make the best better.’ 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. For more information on these opportunities or other 4-H programs, please contact Pam Kerley, at 919-775-5624 or check out our website.

Pam Kerley is the 4-H Program Assistant for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.