Students should stay science savvy over the summer

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CLAY COUNTY – It’s that time of year when children across the state are gleefully singing Alice Copper’s hit song, “School’s Out,” and enjoying days full of sun and fun. Although, unlike in Alice Cooper’s song, school is not out forever.

Summer will end and children will return to the classrooms. You may have heard or read about a phenomenon called “Summer Learning Loss.” This phenomenon describes students losing academic ground over the summer break. A Recent study published in the Educational Researcher found that Summer Learning Loss was observed in math and reading for students in third to eighth grade, with students losing more academic ground as they grow older (Quinn Et al. ,2016).

With this in mind, I hope to leave you with some tips and tricks to help your child engage in science and avoid that “summer learning loss.” I’ll admit that I, like many of you, tend to think of summer as a time for vacations. Learning isn’t always the first thing I think of. While we may want to focus on vacations, spending 20 minutes reading (Swartz, 1995) or learning will pay dividends when school returns. For learning, we can get inspiration by looking out our windows.

Thunderstorms rumble through like clockwork each afternoon giving a great opportunity for some hands-on science. The National Center for Atmospheric Research has a great online portal to help learn about weather (http://eo.ucar.edu/kids/). You can also join the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (www.cocorahs.org), get a rain gauge, and join the network across the country recording rain totals.

If learning about weather isn’t your cup of tea, there are some great activities and lessons available free of charge from 4-H. The 4-H STEM Lab(https://4-h.org/parents/stem-agriculture/youth-stem-activities/) has some great activities that you can do at home, or out on an adventure, with your child. Another great resource is teachengineering.org brought to us by the University of Colorado Boulder. This website has hundreds of activities to keep youth busy with hands on activities. Everything from powering a clock with a potato, to building a bridge with spaghetti noodles.

Finally, if you have a tech savvy child who loves to spend time in front of a computer or video game, have them spend time creating their own video game. Scratch is an online computer coding portal brought to us by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, yes, that’s MIT. It’s free to join and will help your child to think creatively, learn about computer coding, and best of all, make their own video games! Additionally, scratch has a step by step guide available to help your child learn as they create.

It may be tempting to relax and think of summer as a vacation and summer learning as a daunting task, but it is possible. If you engage your child in learning and make time for it you’ll avoid that “summer learning loss” and have a child who’s ready to learn on day 1 when returning back to school. For more information about STEM or 4-H you can contact Matthew Olson at (904) 284-6355 or m.olson@ufl.edu.

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