With the school year finally over the last thing on the minds of most students right now is getting ready for the start of the next academic year in the fall.
Instead, most are thinking about how much fun they're going to have over the next two months. After all, these are the carefree days of family vacations, trips to the local pool or swimming hole, afternoons in the park or just playing around the yard. These activities are important because they keep kids physically active and can help curb the obesity epidemic we have in this country.
However, it's vital that the academic success students achieved during the last 10 months not be lost over the next two. There's even a name for it -- "summer learning loss."
All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer, according to the National Summer Learning Association. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.
Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reaching achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains.
More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities.
"Summer learning loss is real. It's also counterproductive," Vince Bertram, president and CEO of Project Lead the Way, wrote for CNN.
"When students return in the fall, teachers must spend considerable time reviewing before they introduce new material and help students develop new and advanced skills."
Bertram notes that while traditional summer school is beneficial for some students, summer learning does not have to mean spending all day inside a classroom or library. It also doesn't have to cost a lot of money.
Bertram said summer activities are filled with real-world learning experiences that parents can help convey: A swimming pool can teach students about buoyancy; the ocean waves can be a lesson in gravitational forces; a baseball game can teach about velocity and drag; parents and children who enjoy baking together can turn the measurements into a math lesson on fractions.
Summer camps are another great way to continue student learning. Organizations like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and local zoos and museums offer exciting and engaging opportunities for students.
"The responsibility to continue learning this summer rests with each one of us. When it comes to summer learning loss, we can change course. We can continuously improve, learn and engage, and have a great summer in the process," Bertram wrote.
The bottom line is to make sure your children stay active in both body and mind during these dog days of summer so they're ready to hit the ground running when school starts again in the fall.