We are halfway through the summer. There is still time to have an amazing barbecue. Still time to go to an amusement park or two. And still time…
To learn? Of course!
Learning after the final bell of the school year has normally been associated with the institution of summer school. Traditional summer school, for the most part, is structured similar to how school is structured throughout the rest of the year.
On the other end of the spectrum for summer learning are camps that give students the opportunity to engage in rich projects and activity. Traditional camps are normally not directly tied to the curriculum found in schools, although similar subject matter (Math, English, etc.) may be at the core.
So what would happen if we took summer school and meshed it together with camp activities?
We are beginning to see this in growing number, as institutions merge the project-based development of summer camps with the curricular goals of traditional schools. A recent article on Omaha.com highlighted two such programs in the Omaha region. Power Scholar Academy is a partnership between several YMCA’s and the learning nonprofit Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL), while Summer Brain Gain is sponsored by the Boys & Girls Club of America. Both programs tie together fun activities while fostering academic growth in subjects like Math and Reading.
These type of learning programs not only retain the joyous nature of summer camp, they may also be helpful in limiting learning losses that youth incur during the summer months. It seems that the key to the success of these programs likely starts with the understanding that kids just might need a little extra motivation to learn critically beyond the academic school year. Don’t forget – they might be eager to eat at a barbecue or get on rides at an amusement park!
These combination programs are the perfect situations to leverage project-based learning. PBL, by its very nature, marries enriching activity with standards-based (and non-standards-based) learning. Thus, learning can happen and the youth can still enjoy themselves before heading into another intense academic school year. As PBL and other engaging teaching/learning methods continue to rise in popularity, it’s very likely that such programs that integrate these methods will continue to emerge in the near future.