By Priyam, IvyWise Master Tutor
Summer “brain drain” or the “summer slide,” the theory that over the summer break students stop learning and even lose some of what they’ve learned during the school year, is a real phenomenon that’s been documented by researchers for the past several decades. However, there are a number of simple ways in which students can keep their brains active in order to prevent losing any of the gains they’ve made over the previous academic year.
Continuing to learn during times of educational lulls can seem like a tall task: how can I simulate classroom learning outside of school? What parents and students need to realize, however, is continuing to learn over the summer doesn’t have to mean burying yourself in textbooks.
Consider the fact that 65% of kids in grade school may end up doing work that hasn’t even been invented yet. Having a growth mindset is an important thing to start early in order to carry over into adulthood, too. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more employers care more about how well you learn over other hiring factors. Learning is a habit, much like getting your body in shape. You can’t exercise for four years, and then say you’re set for life. Rather you need to keep working at it. Just like how fitness experts advise us to form an exercise habit we enjoy, so we’ll stick with it, you also need to learn how to learn in a way that is enjoyable and becomes a lifelong habit.
How Summer Break Impacts Learning
According to The National Summer Learning Association, most students lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. And when looking at a comparison between students who take standardized tests before and after the summer break, researchers have found that many students tend to test worse at the end of summer break than they do at the beginning. So there’s real proof that taking an extended break from learning during the summer can impact students’ performance and retention for the next school year.
However, what’s missing from summer slide research is the impact that other kinds of learning that takes place over the summer has on students’ brains. Students can learn other important skills during the summer from their families, friends, and communities that aren’t so easy to measure, like relational skills, and even practical math skills used to play games. As a parent or educator, the most important thing you can do for your student this summer to flight that summer slide is to engage their brains in stimulating and creative activities to offset the effects of constant screen time spent on Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
Here are some ways to avoid summer brain drain that can also help foster life-long learning habits.
Whether it’s books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, or other publications, reading can help engage students in something they are specifically interested in and help cultivate passion. Many colleges or internships will ask about spare time activities or what students like to read and it becomes easy to answer if there was actual reading taking place over the summer.
There are great summer programs for all interests, whether science, engineering, computer science, art, astronomy, etc., and summer programs are a great way to enable students to engage in educational activities while allowing them to have fun at the same time. While it’s too late to apply to any summer programs at major colleges or universities, there might be some local summer programs with space sponsored by local organizations or the city. Do some research to find programs that match your interests like photography, art, writing, science, and more.
It is not advisable for students to spend their entire summer prepping for the ACT or SAT, but it’s something that they can do in conjunction with other summer activities. Using free time to take practice tests, work on areas of weakness, or meet with a tutor can help students reach their goal score and prevent the loss of educational gains over the summer.
Taking a course at a college of interest or even at a local university can help with gaining credits while in high school and also further contribute to cultivating interest in specific areas. Or taking an online course on an unfamiliar topic or a hobby can lead to an enriched summer – learning to cook an exotic cuisine, painting with watercolors, playing a musical instrument or learning how to speak a foreign language. The benefit of online courses is you can be on your tablet while you sit by the pool.
One may not equate volunteering with learning, but the two activities are closely connected. Giving time to a worthy cause can help students see social issues in a new light, and inspire them grow interest in something. Volunteering at a hospital, research lab, or tutoring underprivileged kids, can all be worthy causes.
If there are family travel plans over the summer, find out what the destination has to offer and take advantage of the educational activities. Visiting historic sites and landmarks is a great way to teach children about history and geography. Trips to a museum, zoo, farm, and other interactive activities are a great way to promote learning and spending a day at a new place is exciting and often memorable for children.
And of course, for rising seniors, the summer break is the perfect time to begin working on college applications. Students can create their Common Application accounts now and all their information will be rolled over when they sign in after August 1. This gives students the opportunity to start writing their personal statements, since the Common Application has already released the essay prompts for the 2018-19 application season, as well as any supplements that individual colleges release throughout the summer. Getting the bulk of college applications done during the summer break will not only keep students’ minds exercised, but it will also relieve a lot of stress this fall, as they won’t have to juggle college apps on top of regular coursework, extracurriculars, and any SAT or ACT retesting.
Keeping the brain engaged and growing over the summer doesn’t have to be boring! There are a number of things that students can do over the summer to fight summer brain drain, while also engaging their interests and having fun! The summer is a great time for students to continue to explore their passions, learn new skills, prep for the future, all the while enjoying a break from the structure of the school year.
For those who are interested in more structured learning opportunities this summer, contact us today for more information on our tutoring and test prep services and how we can help your student get on track with his or her academic and SAT or ACT planning this summer.