The 11 weeks that mark summer break represent freedom: freedom to play, freedom to dream, freedom to forget everything learned during the previous school year. To counteract the latter, parents have the opportunity to send kids to educational camps or on field trips to continue the learning process all summer long.
“The documented phenomenon whereby a child loses one day of information for each day they are out of school is called the ‘summer slide,’” says Alan Iguchi, owner of Mathnasium of Boulder. “During a single summer a child could very easily lose up to 3 months’ worth of math information learned during the previous school year. Our program helps the students both retain and build their math skills to get ahead for the upcoming year.”
While the name “educational camp” might not sound appealing to a kid who wants to enjoy summer break, the camps with cool names help engage students in learning through games and other activities.
Boulder Parks and Recreation offers BLAST OFF! Science Camp five separate weeks throughout the summer. Every day, students conduct a different experiment and work on building a rocket. Because the camp is based out of the South Boulder Recreation Center, campers also have the opportunity to go in the pool and canoe at Viele Lake, combining a sense of adventure with learning. By the end of the week, campers have a list of experiments, with instructions, to take home and repeat with family and friends.
At Play-Well TEKnologies’ weeklong summer camps, every day is a Lego day. Framed as playing with Legos, kids will learn real world applications of engineering at a small scale.
“Kids build cars in our camp and learn about axles and tires, and they learn that the tires on your car don’t hit the side of your car because that would cause friction,” says Brie Laffey, Play-Well’s Boulder area manager. “Then they go outside and look at mom/ dad’s car, and they see the tires really don’t hit the side of the car, and they never realized that before. They get really excited about real world application of what they’re building out of Legos.”
Another bonus of educational camps is the atmosphere. “We’re a very comfortable, safe environment of indoor exploration educationally during the summer,” Laffey says. She adds that Play-Well is a great experience for campers with with autism, Asperger’s or ADHD, because they can work with other students if they want but can also work independently if that’s what they’re most comfortable with.
Mathnasium of Boulder tailors its program to each individual child. After an initial assessment of the child’s strengths and weaknesses, Mathnasium creates individualized curriculum; however, students also have the opportunity to play games with other kids to improve math skills. While Mathnasium is open year-round for math help, students can drop-in for open summer sessions 1:30-6:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
Through both individual and group work, educational camps can provide kids with increased self-confidence and improved problem-solving skills. They get students out of the house and focused on the exploration of new ideas.
“Another long-term benefit is success,” says Molly Langerak, program coordinator for BLAST OFF! Science Camp. “Kids also experience how to do something from start to finish. This can be through a craft, game, rocket building and a variety of activities they can experience at camp.”
So whatever a child does this summer, make sure there remains a process of learning while playing to defeat the summer brain dump.