Skill building v. free ranging

Apr 27 2017 | 03:17 AM

Should we use summertime to introduce our kids to a new skill that will serve them down the road, or let them ehxale, unplug and be kids? An ‘aha’ moment that can change a young life When summer comes around, many parents worry about their students falling into “summer slide,” where, without the structure and studying of a school environment, kids forget concepts and subjects they’d previously mastered and are hindered when they return to school in the fall. The National Summer Learning Association reports that students lose roughly one month of learning over the summer; this number jumps to three months for lower income children. Teachers report having to use up to six weeks at the beginning of each year to re-teach concepts kids learned the year before but forgotten over vacation. That’s a lot of wasted time and resources, and the loss is cumulative as kids age. But shouldn’t children also get a break from the stress of deadlines and schedules? Of course. The key is finding balance, because freedom and fun are essential for kids on summer vacation, as creativity and imagination can thrive when students are given a break. Many parents are turning to summer technology camps as the perfect solution. Finding a camp that’s educational and entertaining keeps kids’ brains engaged, satisfies their desire for non-school time, and helps ease parents’ anxiety about summer slide. Summer tech camps also have an added bonus — they can spark an interest in a subject that changes the trajectory of a student’s life. Whether it’s designing their first website, building their first computer from scratch, or watching with delight as the robot they programmed to race across the table perfectly follows their instructions, tech has the possibility to empower students by showing them a subject they might not be exposed to during the traditional school year (because only one in ten schools nationwide teaches computer science). iD Tech is one company that has had great success at inspiring students and preventing the summer slide. “Every year I get to see students light up with that ‘ah-ha’ moment as a new concept clicks for them,” says Genevieve Johnson, educational content manager at iD Tech. “The summer camp environment creates a unique learning experience that goes well beyond the classroom.” Aurora Smith, PR coordinator, iD Tech Camps, New Paltz, NY and locations nationwide A time for kids to – finally – be kids “Summer.” One of the most beautiful words in our language. How it is said can connote different visions and memories: long, lazy summer days; fireflies making the evening woodlands sparkle; a time when the livin’ is easy; gardens; vacations; swimming; afternoon thunder storms; camp - day or sleep-away; playing with friends; hanging out without much to do; summer jobs and more. It is also a time for kids to be kids, spending time in nature, taking a break from school, from “learning things”; from media, cell phones and the like. Our children, in this media age, live in a competitive society that is fast-paced and exposes them to many things that they are not ready for. It’s quite sad to see stress stealing their childhood from them. You can see it every day. Having worked with over 300,000 children in the outdoors for the last 47 years, and owning and directing a day camp for the last 32, I can tell you that our kids are in trouble! But summer is coming and you have a chance to give them what they need. Many studies back this up. And it’s wonderfully simple. Some do’s and don’ts Do get them out into nature - backyards and local parks are good Let them enjoy free, unstructured play outdoors with others Don’t sign them up for special classes. They don’t always need to be learning Let them explore new places near home Or take a trip to a place where they can run, jump, roll, hide Walk outdoors during a rainstorm Keep media, all kinds, out of the picture. Radical, I realize Give them space - be watchful but don’t hover Let them get dirty. Don’t over schedule Think about what you liked to do when you were a child back when, and also what you would like to do now if you if you were still that same child. Then do it with your kids. Ed Bieber Owner, director of The Nature Place Day Camp, Chestnut Ridge, NY