Summer Learning is Life-Long Learning
Summer is the perfect season to practice one of the most used aspirations in education; life-long learning. However, after a full school year, the temptation to take a learning respite is a real and deserved part of the student and educator’s life. Still, the importance of continuous learning during the summer has long-standing, documented, and valuable benefits.
A 2018 publication by the US Department of Education referenced numerous studies on summer learning. Highlights included these two conclusions. First, “Research shows that summer slide—the loss of learning over the summer break—is a huge contributor to the achievement gap between low-income students and their higher-income peers.” And second, “Summer learning programs can be effective and are likely to have positive impacts when they engage students in learning activities that are hands-on, enjoyable and have real-world applications.”
The large district I work for provides multiple opportunities for students over the summer. One program funds high schools up to $10,000.00 for experiences they designed for their student population. Another option is themed summer camps offered to elementary and middle school students. Both programs combine aspects of academic and social–emotional learning that help bridge the transition between grades.
Summer learning opportunities are available for educators as well. In addition to these programs being models of what “life-long learning” looks like, educators have a range of options to improve their craft. Teachers can use the summer to obtain a credential, develop technical skill, expand their content knowledge, or work on a district curriculum project. These opportunities are organized by federal and state departments, school districts, non-profits, and private companies. With this plethora of summer learning opportunities offered to students and adults, your organization should develop strategies to get involved with existing experiences. Start by reaching out to schools you work with and organizations that you would want to partner with to build your understanding of their summer opportunities. Once you identify a summer collaborator, pitching how you can support, or sponsor part of their summer learning is important. Connecting your product or service in conjunction with the benefits of summer learning identified in the research above makes a compelling case for your involvement.
Another option is for your organization to create its own summer learning experience for students or educators. This is a great way to build communities, develop networks, showcase your work, and position yourself as a leader in the field. Using this approach is indeed a bigger lift as summer learning experiences involve enterprises. For example, the College Board’s Summer Institute and the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Symposiums are just two of the many options for educators. Still, if executed well your summer learning experience can become a recognized option for students or educators to be life-long learners.
Written by: Craig Perrier
Educational Thought Leader and Practitioner
Craig is the High School Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction Specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools in Fairfax, VA. He also is an online adjunct professor of education for Framingham State University and the teacher certification program, Educate VA. Previously, he taught at American Schools in Brazil for six years and for six years in public schools in Massachusetts.
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