Inspired by a recent article on reducing summer ‘brain drain’*, I thought I would offer tips and tricks to keeping young children and teens engaged in being creative and continuing to learn during the summer months when they have time away from a traditional school setting. To highlight the importance of staying engaged, I’ll throw out a few stats to bring the point home for you. It takes teachers an average of 3 weeks to re-teach lessons from the previous year when school starts up again in the fall. Students lose an average of 2 months of math skills over the summer session. And, for kids in grades 2-9, summer learning loss is 25%-30% of their overall content from the previous year. Luckily, there are MANY resources to combat this backsliding. Included in the tips below are places locally where you can get involved and connected to continuous learning opportunities.
Join a Summer Reading program
There are a wealth of resources at the DeKalb Public Library and the Sycamore Public Library, as well as at the smaller libraries in the County. Libraries offer great public spaces and creative resources to keep kids reading and getting involved in activities throughout the sunny days of summer, leading to improved test scores overall as school resumes. Click here for online summer reading lists and activities.
Cook or Bake together
Food is great at bringing people together, and reading recipes and calculating measurements helps with math skills and teaches valuable life skills. Northwestern Medicine has a ‘Kids Can Cook’ program teaching cooking classes. The DeKalb Farmers Market is a great place to visit to purchase fresh ingredients and cook a family meal.
Visit a Museum or Zoo
Our county has a wealth of attractions to engage young minds. The Midwest Museum of Natural History is an animal-lovers treasure right in our own backyard. The newly formed DeKalb County History Center at 1730 N. Main Street in Sycamore offers Garden Story Time weekly with programs like “Ladybugs on the Loose” and “Birds in our World” for ages 3-5 and their siblings.
Plant a Garden
Opportunities for hands-on science exist when kids are able to roll up their sleeves and plant a garden. From picking our seeds, to learning about the plant nutrition to harvesting the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor, gardening is good fun! DeKalb County Community Gardens have great tips for families, as well as opportunities to volunteer to help with planting & harvests.
Encouraging kids to keep active can have a positive effect on their health and their learning. With tools like pedometers or smart phone apps, kids can set fitness goals and track their progress. Many entities offer recreation programs – from the YMCA to the DeKalb and Sycamore Park Districts to KSRA for kids with special needs, among others.
I hope these resources help families get inspired to get out and about, and check out the valuable resources that are in our own backyard. Family time is so important for many reasons. Hop on a bike or in the car and visit these organizations and sign up to learn a new skill or two. Stay active, have fun, and keep learning & growing!
* ”Stop Summer Brain Drain” by Margaret Poe, Thrivent Magazine, June 2018