Summer Learning Doesn’t Have to Take Place in School - America's Future

June 24, 2021

Leadership

Summer Learning Doesn’t Have to Take Place in School

By: Cooper Conway

It goes without saying that the pandemic put K-12 students through the wringer. While some succeeded with online learning, others struggled with varying degrees of learning loss from the pandemic halting in-person learning. To reverse learning losses, the Biden administration has teamed up with school districts across the country to expand summer school offerings, but according to a recent survey done by YouGov, only 26 percent of parents are planning on prioritizing academic studies in core subjects for their children this summer. However, children being away from the traditional classroom this summer does not mean learning stops; in fact, experiencing activities outside of school could even encourage learning that they would never get in a classroom.

When asked, What is the one activity you would prioritize for your eighth through twelfth-grade child this summer?”, 70% of parents responded that they prefer their children to participate in something active outside. Outdoor activities, clubs and hobbies, sports, and work experience are all great ways for children to gain various life skills. The ability to stay disciplined, manage time, and work with others are some of the skills that can develop from being outside the classroom and engaging in the real world. These skills last well beyond a student’s time in school and make them better employers or employees when they are no longer in the classroom.

Learning outside of the classroom will also widen a student’s worldview. For example, children may attend camps alongside other kids with a completely different family dynamic than theirs, exposing them to different cultures or life experiences. In addition, older students who are able to get jobs in retail or food service for the summer are all but guaranteed to learn respect for those working in such industries. 

Still, parents worried about further learning losses from summer break can continue to support their child’s academic learning goals by supplementing their summer break with outside learning resources. Learning resources like summer library reading programs are great ways to encourage children to develop a love of learning through reading. Self-directed reading programs have also been shown to diminish summer learning reading losses. In fact, according to one study by the School Library Journal, students in library reading programs actually show reading gains by the time the following school year starts. Parents worried about learning loss in other subjects like math or science can also find online resources. Khan Academy and Youtube, for instance, provides plenty of videos on various topics, further battling learning loss while allowing children to enjoy their summer break away from the classroom.

Experiencing different environments is essential for a child’s growth, and summer is a perfect time for students to learn life lessons a school cannot teach. The decision many parents plan to make by not enrolling their children in the traditional summer classroom environment, after learning losses from the pandemic, may be surprising; however, parents know best what their children need. Learning comes in all different shapes and sizes, and the traditional classroom may not be what is best for every child this summer. So let us encourage children to enjoy their break by exploring, innovating, and being creative by taking up experiential and self-directed learning. All students should have the chance to enjoy a more open and covid friendly summer of learning.