According to the National Summer Learning Association, kids lose as much as two to three months of math and reading skills over the summer -- with the most significant losses in lower-income kids. This is called summer learning loss, summer slide, or summer brain drain.
Here’s a Washington Post article with additional information on the phenomenon.
Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways of this research is that kids need to use their knowledge during the summer, or they run the risk of losing it. That said, there are some easy ways for both teachers and parents to encourage kids to embrace learning in the summer.
Read! Many classroom teachers provide reading lists for next year’s students so they have some suggested, age-appropriate content to peruse during the summer months.
Parents: you can help by encouraging your kids to read these books and engaging them in conversation about what they are reading. Take summer reading a step further by providing some structured activities around the books on the list. For example, you could have your child act out a scene from a book or craft a costume or tool they think would be useful for the main character. Anything you can do to keep their bodies -- and minds -- active during the summer months goes a long way toward reducing brain drain.
Check out First Book, an organization that provides free and low-cost books to kids in need.
Go to the library. Pew Research recently looked into public library use by adults in the United States and learned that libraries are not obsolete yet. In fact, millennials (ages 18- to 35-years-old) are the most likely generation of Americans to use public libraries -- and many are bringing their children.
Libraries are becoming increasingly useful because they provide reliable computers and an internet connection, as well as extra services such as literacy programs, meeting spaces, and maker spaces that are equipped with 3D printers and other technology -- including littleBits kits with which kids can experiment!
Find teachable moments. Teachers can set up unstructured learning activities during the summer. For example, asking students to create a “discovery journal” in which they take note of the interesting things they see and do during the summer months is one powerful way to encourage self-directed exploration and learning.
Parents: to facilitate this assignment, encourage your kids to when you’re out in the world with your kids and they find a cool “treasure,” bring it home with you! Ask them to do some research about what it is, where it came from, what they could use it for. Curiosity is one of the most impactful motivators in learning; when your child expresses interest in a topic, do all that you can to encourage them to explore it.
826 National is a network of writing and tutoring centers for children and teens that might provide some helpful tips on creating a discovery journal.
Interested further reading? Read some additional tips from littleBits on beating summer brain drain. NSLA also published a really interesting report on the importance of STEM learning in the summer: STEM Policy Brief: The Power of Summer.
Check it out, and share any ideas you have about how to avoid summer brain drain -- especially in STEM -- with @littleBits on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.