Summertime...and the learning is easy

It’s almost summer time! Time for the beach! Time for ice cream! Time for—summer learning loss?

Research indicates that students lose some of their academic skills during the summer months away from school. Of course, this is a pattern, not a rule. And there are differences between socioeconomic groups (underprivileged students losing more than their more advantaged peers), subjects (math gets lost more than language arts), and differences in age (younger kids need more adult help to prevent learning loss than older kids). But if you have a kid in your life who is heading into summer vacation, here are a few ideas to help keep learning alive during the summer months:

Read Together: Research by James Kim of Harvard Education has found that young children need more than just access to books during the summer months. They need adults to help them develop reading skills to enable them to absorb the meaning of the words they read. Here at the Museum, we know that most parents aren’t trained to teach reading, so we try to make it easy to coach your child, using free reading guides on our Museum’s OurStory website. Each reading guide focuses on a picture book that tells a story about American history, and includes tips for active reading, vocabulary, and extension activity ideas for that specific book. So there’s no guesswork about how to help your child develop reading skills.

Play Online: Turn a rainy day into an opportunity for learning with online games. Most of our online games last around 5 minutes, but might inspire questions for the rest of the day. After playing with transportation in Where’s Everyone Going?, your child might be inspired to ask interesting questions about buses and subways while on his next adventure in the city. The National Museum of American History is just one of many Smithsonian museums to have great online games for kids. Keep busy all summer with fun stuff from the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies, Natural History, and more.

"Where's Everyone Going?", shown here, is just one of many educational games offered by the National Museum of American History.

Listen In: Not sure what to listen to during your big summer road trip? We’ve combined some of our most popular podcasts into themes to spark conversation in your car. Invite Smithsonian staff to join your ride with this year’s podcast playlists on music and invention. The series will start on June 15 and will be downloadable from the Museum’s podcast page or in the iTunes store.

And of course, visit a museum: Whether it’s our Museum or your local historical society, museums are powerful places of learning wrapped in a fun package. And remember that most adults who grew up to love museums had a memorable experience in a museum between ages 7 to 9. Start young to spark a lifelong love of museums!

Don’t forget to share this link with your class’s parent e-mail list, your parent-teacher organization, or summer camp counselors!

Jenny Wei is an Education Specialist with the Department of Education and Interpretation at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.