Bridging the education gap

Summer camp helps kids avoid the ‘summer slide’

When you hear the phrase, “summer slide,” you might think about fun times at the water park. But the phrase refers to the documented loss of learning that occurs during summer vacation.

Studies show that many youths experience a setback in their education when school takes a pause and they are away from structured learning and the discipline of the classroom.

Research demonstrates that at least a month of a child’s overall ability to learn is lost over summer vacation. In addition, students suffer a two-month loss in reading skills and a more than two-month loss in math skills. Because of these losses, most veteran teachers know that the first six weeks of school will be taken up by teaching old material that students need to re-learn before they can move on to the current year’s curriculum.

Why the slide?

The average child often squanders their time with Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, TV and video games. Though some screen time can be educational, the majority of these unsupervised activities are often of no practical or educational value. Summer learning loss has been documented as early as first grade and increases each year with the greatest loss occurring in the higher grades.

Educators propose three possible solutions to preventing the summer slide – summer school, extending the school calendar or modifying the educational system to offer year-round education. And yet, parents know that their children (and their teachers) need a fun, healthy break from the grind of the classroom.

Closing the gap

New Hampshire camps have been a part of the state’s culture for more than 135 years, offering summer fun to children and adults.

Camps have become much more than campfires and s’mores. They are staffed by highly qualified educational professionals that provide fun in an alternative outdoor classroom. Many children that struggle in school thrive in the experiential, outdoors, hands-on environment of camp where they can learn and practice life skills without feeling the pressure of the classroom.

Parents can choose from many types of camps to ensure their child has a productive summer that keeps them on track. These include day camps, library reading camps, church camps, residential overnight camps, and camps that focus on a particular interest or activity.

Camp curriculum

New Hampshire camps teach both hard and soft skills to kids.

Activities that teach hard measureable academic skills include reading and journaling, opportunities to put math to practical use, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) experiments, technology exploration, and plenty of healthy physical activity.

Soft skills include opportunities for campers to set goals, solve problems, develop leadership qualities, work as a valued member of a team, and improve their communication and resilience skills. Ideally, every child should go to camp with a plan to learn something new that will increase their competence and confidence when they return to school.

Paying for camp

Many parents have neither the time nor extra money to send their children to camp, take them on educational outings or participate in their summer activities.

If a child lives in a rural area or is an only child, that youth is less likely to have social contact with peers and is more likely to be isolated. Children who receive free or reduced lunch are also less likely to have access to good nutrition on a daily basis, a key component that supports all focused learning.

Working families need not despair – even if you cannot afford to send your child to camp. Many New Hampshire camps offer scholarship opportunities to children and families. In some cases, families can apply for a scholarship for their child directly, or may ask their child’s guidance counselor for a referral.

Parents can explore summer learning possibilities at the New Hampshire Camp Directors’ Association website: www.nhcamps.org. You can search using various criteria including location, type, cost, and session length.  

Kathleen Kearns is a freelance writer and Executive Director of the Circle Program, a nonprofit organization that offers residential summer camp and year-round mentoring programs to underprivileged New Hampshire girls.

Categories: Camps

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