I grew up on one of the Finger Lakes about forty miles east of Rochester, New York where summers were spent in a carefree existence of riding bikes and playing tag. Our concerns were the color popsicle we’d get at the end of the day (hopefully cherry) and if the fireflies would be out that night. I can remember so many specific details from my childhood summers, almost forty-five years ago, as if they happened yesterday. Yet, I don’t remember the capitols of all fifty states (even though I memorized them in 5th grade) and I can recite less than ten presidents in order (even though at one time I could rattle off Washington to Ford in less than two minutes). Why is it that we remember some things, while others fade away almost immediately? I’ve learned through the years that what we remember is connected to experiences that were fun, engaging and interesting. The things that get us excited and that spark our curiosity are the things that keep us motivated and inspired to the point we often lose track of time.
When I was teaching first grade, I would start virtually every lesson or book by tapping into my students’ past experiences. “Who has seen a bird’s nest,” “Have you ever slipped on a wet rock?” Inevitably, the high achievers in my class were always the students who had a wide range of experiences and opportunities, especially over the summer. From horseback riding to playing guitar, swimming in the lake or playing Kick the Can, those experiences provided the platform for future learning. It’s important to point out here that incidental learning is just as important, and sometimes more important, than intentional teaching. My summer experiences provided opportunities such as learning about plants by creating my own terrarium or reinforcing geometry and engineering when we were building a tree fort. Play is a child’s job.
Tips to Prevent Summer Learning Loss
For more tips, see our article in the spring issue of National Association of Elementary School Principals Magazine.
And lastly, please consider participating in National Summer Learning Day on July 12, 2018.
National Summer Learning Day is a national advocacy day aimed at elevating the importance of keeping kids learning, safe and healthy every summer, ensuring they return to school in the fall ready to succeed in the year. Your participation sends a powerful message across the nation that summers matter and offers an opportunity to showcase how summers can make a life-changing difference in the lives of young people.