Tips To Keep Students of All Ages Busy and On Track This Summer

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GEAR UP Iowa Facilitator Tiffany Berkenes offers some advice for students and families looking to stay on track and not lose classroom momentum before the next school year.

When we think of summer, we think of sunshine (enjoying relief from harsh Midwest winters!), spending time outside with friends, trying the newest fried treat at the Iowa State Fair, taking family vacations, and for many kids – a break from school. Although summer is meant to be and should be a time for “kids to be kids,” this is also a period in which our youth experience a significant amount of learning loss, particularly those from lower-income families.

When the doors of the schools close and the routine of daily instruction and educational engagement end for three months, students are suddenly faced with nearly three months of freedom in which they potentially lose two months’ worth of academic knowledge. There’s good news! Kids can still learn; still engage their brain while having fun – sometimes without even knowing it!

For many families, they support and want their children to participate in summer learning; however, accessibility, awareness of options, and affordability present barriers. For that reason, below are a variety of opportunities for all ages that will keep that young mind active and better prepared for entering the next grade-level. Bonus: Many of these experiences are great for networking and to include on college and scholarship applications!

  • Check out your local Boys & Girls Club to see if they offer the Summer Brain Gain, which is available for elementary, middle, and high school students
  • Start a book club with friends or neighbors – now’s the time YOU can choose what you read! Take it outside to your favorite park, and then discuss the books over a picnic
  • High School Students: Apply for the free TRIO Upward Bound college prep program, which offers a 6-week summer experience on college campuses. UB programs in Iowa are hosted by the following: Central College, Simpson College, DMACC-Urban, Iowa State University, University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, Western Iowa Tech Community College, and Southeastern Community College.
  • Participate in a summer camp – there are several offered at various places like the YMCA, local museums, sports organizations, churches, dance/gymnastic studios, etc.
  • Ask your school district and public libraries about summer programming – usually it’s free!
  • Visit college campuses! For example, Iowa Private College Week is August 3-7.
  • Volunteer for a place that fits your interests such as the Animal Rescue League, the zoo, library, the hospital, daycare, etc. Find a volunteer opportunity at Volunteer Iowa.
  • Explore free digital learning apps, which you can take outside with you. Khan Academy is one example, and there are more listed here.
  • Break out the old school board games – again, something you can do outside!
  • Sign up for the free Ten Marks Summer Math Program
  • Have a dream job in mind? Ask to job shadow someone!
  • PBS Kids free resources
  • Blog or journal about your summer adventures
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