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"Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, waterbugs, tadpoles, frogs & turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, hickory nuts, trees to climb, animals to pet, hayfields, pine cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets – and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education." -Luther Burbank 1849 - 1926
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Summer time learning is fun

Children are tired of book learning by the time summer break rolls around. But they are never tired of learning! Summer brings with it a season of change...a season of learning outdoors, learning with friends, learning with families. Summer travel, heat escapes, and the new life that springs up in the yard, parks and wildness in your community can be excellent ways to learn practical lessons about life.

Summer need not be a time for learning to backslide. Summer learning doesn't have to be a chore for children or their parents, says Brenda McLaughlin, director of research and policy at the Center for Summer Learning at The Johns Hopkins University. In fact, favorite summer pastimes like backyard cookouts and trips to the beach are always opportunities to learn something new.

"Summer is an excellent time for informal education such as trips to museums, public libraries, and parks," McLaughlin says. "All parents can involve their children in fun, everyday activities such as cooking a new recipe or shopping at the local supermarket. These activities can help students practice their math skills, for example."

Here are a few simple suggestions to foster summertime learning:

Reading and Writing

  • Read aloud to your kids or have them read aloud to you.
  • Let your child see you reading for pleasure.
  • Visit the local public library and participate in special summer reading programs there.
  • Subscribe to magazines and newspapers and talk about current events with your child.

Math and Science

  • Visit a local park and observe different types of rocks, animals, insects and leaves. If parents grew up in different parts of the United States or in different countries, talk about the differences in the types of plants and animals you can find where you live now versus where you used to live.
  • Hang a thermometer outside to track the temperature. Observe weather patterns and make forecasts.
  • Plant a garden to show how seeds develop into plants and how fertilizer and weather can affect growth.
  • Participate in a local recycling program and talk about what would happen to the empty containers if you didn't.

Social Studies

  • Interview older community members about their lives and the history of the neighborhood. Ask them to compare the neighborhood they live in now to the neighborhood where they grew up.
  • Learn capitals, countries and continents by playing games and taking virtual field trips on line.
  • Take field trips to museums, gardens, zoos and local history sites.
  • Make maps of your neighborhood and places you want to visit with your children.

Keeping young minds busy with activities such as these is imperative during the summer months to ward off "summer learning loss," or forgetting important skills and knowledge that they don't use when school is out.

Students who take a break from reading during the summer score lower on tests at the end of their vacation than they did on the same test at the beginning of the summer. Typically, students lose one to two months worth of reading and math skills during summer break, and teachers often spend four to six weeks at the beginning of each school year re-teaching material that students have forgotten.

"How children spend their time outside of school is critically important to their academic success," McLaughlin says. "During the school year, parents help their children succeed by checking their homework, reading to and with their children, and limiting the amount of time they watch television and play video games. Children need similar types of learning support during the summer."

Regardless of which program or activity parents chose for their children, parents play a critical role in nurturing their children's natural curiosity to learn new concepts, skills, and information – during the summer and throughout the school year.

For more articles about NATURE & KIDS

Young Birders Get Serious About Birding Fun
The Squirrel Family 0 Backyard Nature Safari
Hamsters are rodents and cuddly pets
Kids Learning Links
Buddy's Diner (for the birds)
Bird Profiles for Young Naturalists