Parents everywhere are wondering how to prevent the summer slide, when their children lose skills gained during the school year to the summer vacation.
Most parents these days would not follow Atticus Finch’s approach in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” of allowing a wide open time of exploring backyards, playacting books, and sleeping on porches. Instead today, parents attend to a volume of research that warns of the loss of reading, math, and other skills that occur when kids aren’t doing educational activities.
While summer learning doesnt have to mean sitting the kids down for formal study, it can mean anything that sparks their desire to learn, create or solve problems. According to Sarah Pitcock, chief executive officer of the National Summer Learning Association, summer learning can be activities that encourage exploration, or spark curiousity. “For example, there’s lots of learning that is inherent in family projects, like planting a garden, which means you have to budget for the plants, measure the area and learn about how much sunlight and water certain plants need.”
Fortunately, opportunities abound in the Bay Area, including for kids whose families cannot fit camps and special school programs into their schedules or budgets. Experts and Bay Area parents offer 12 affordable and mostly easy ways to engage kids intellectually and creatively over the next two months.
As a world center for technology and innovation, the Bay Area boasts museums that will boost kids’ STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning. Build a robot during a visit to San Jose’s Tech Museum of Innovation, experience the theories behind spatial relations at the Exploratorium’s Geometry Playground, or invent something with the help of staff and interns at the Ingenuity Studio at Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science.
The Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland hosts its “Summer Scientist” series, affordable drop-in workshops ($5 per person) where kids can build wind turbines or play in a Mars flight simulator.