June 14, 2019
With graduation behind us, and having successfully ended the school year for our remaining students on June 12, there is a significant amount of time for students to enjoy their summer vacation. I know that “Schools out for Summer” has long been a popular refrain at this time of the year for both students and staff. While it’s great to take some time to relax, recharge, and reflect - doing only this for the 10 weeks of summer vacation has been shown to be detrimental to learning. This doesn’t need to equate to ‘summer school’ or an extended or year-round school schedule but should mean that everyone makes opportunities throughout the summer to keep their academic skills sharp.
Many of our staff will actually attend ‘summer school’ by taking graduate courses, participating in professional development, and in some cases by working with students for much of the summer. Most staff will also continue to assess and revise their curricula and teaching strategies in order to be better prepared for their students when school starts again in late August. Other staff—including administrators, secretaries, support staff, and of course our maintenance, grounds, and custodial staff—will be working throughout the summer to prepare for the return of teachers and students. Of course, all staff have to continuously monitor progress across a wide range of state and federal regulations, the most recent example being the Tier 1 Focus Monitoring Review this spring (the final DESE report can be found on our website under Special Education).
Some students will participate in town or district summer activities that will ensure that they practice academic skills, often without knowing, as they’re enjoying different activities that are not seen as ‘school like’. Other students may attend summer camp and participate in many different types of activities, i.e., summer camp now comes in so many flavors including computer, gaming, and activities at science museums, historical sites and outdoor venues. Some may even opt to participate in online learning in a subject area of interest.
Most students will not have those opportunities for a range of reasons, but there are still many other activities that can provide interest, experiences, and allow for inquiry-based learning. These can be as simple as discussing the growth of fruits, flowers, and vegetables or as complex as charting the biodiversity in one’s backyard. It may involve adding activities to a family vacation such as noting the differences in the environment of the hilltowns verses the beach, visiting museums, historical sites, or national parks (yes there are some national parks and sites in our area), or even just estimating the miles, times, and speed of reaching your destination. Even keeping a journal of activities, writing to friends (either online or actually using pen and paper), or writing grocery lists maintains writing skills while reading books, comics, newspapers, magazines or even blogs supports reading abilities.
It’s estimated that up to 2.6 months of mathematical skills and 2 months of reading skills can be lost over summer vacation if we don’t encourage our children in engage in activities over the summer (See https://www.oxfordlearning.com/summer-learning-loss-statistics/). The effort of encouraging the natural inquisitiveness of our children seems a small price to pay for maintaining their academic abilities and helping them stay on track for successfully completing their education and preparing to life in general. Remember that down time is essential to health, and movement and exercise are important for health, but too much time spent doing little (or caught up in online gaming) can also be detrimental to our overall ability to move forward and succeed.