How Summer Programs Can Further Learning

Summers with Substance

How Summer Programs Can Further Learning

Summers with Substance

As a parent preparing for my child’s upcoming summer vacation, I’m always on edge about the summer learning loss, also known as the infamous “summer slide.” The National Summer Learning Association reports that most students lose an average of two months of grade-level equivalency in math over the summer.

But that’s not all. If they are not kept properly occupied, they also tend to lose precious motivation.¬†Guidance counselors have the great challenge and privilege of aligning students with opportunities that maximize their potential, expand their horizons and meet their overarching future goals. Summer community service programs, both domestic and international, can often fit the bill for those looking for an enriching out-of-the-classroom experience.

Not only do the programs look good on college resumes for the students’ willingness to step outside of their comfort zones, but the right program can encourage kids to grow in more ways than they (or their parents) ever imagined.

Here are some of the ways that quality summer service programs can add to a student’s overall education. Although they might not be practicing math each day, they will be learning in many other ways:

Learning life skills: Some summer programs include a service work element, and others really focus on it. For those that have a service component at the core, there are opportunities for kids to work on projects with lasting impacts on a community. Through construction or environmental projects, for example, participants are able to learn technical, teamwork and problem-solving skills. They gain confidence and see efforts rewarded not only by visible results of the project, but also by the gratitude and shared accomplishments of the host community.

Learning about the world: Many teenagers are ready to experience cultures that are exceptionally different from their own. Kids have big hearts and big dreams, along with a drive to be involved in things that transcend the pressures of school life. Through summer service programs, teens have the opportunity to meet others from all over the world who share a passion for doing something different and making a difference. This can also help to create more knowledgeable and engaged global citizens.

Learning empathy and gratitude: High school years can be full of social and academic challenges. By working on projects in areas of great need, summer service can be an extremely grounding experience, and one that gives teens an opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves. They often return with increased empathy for people of all walks of life, gratitude for all they have at home and a desire to keep working within their own communities.

Learning languages: In addition to English-speaking sites, some programs offer language immersion programs. Though these, participants have the opportunity to live and work in communities with local people who speak little or no English. These day-to-day conversations are a great complement to classroom language studies.

Learning motivation, grit and determination: Working as a team with shared goals and seeing the results, not only physically, but also through the lens of a community member’s gratitude, can be an extremely motivating experience for teens. Although many kids might come with an innate motivation already intact, they almost always leave quality service programs with that either elevated or recharged, making them more motivated and determined as the next school year unfolds.

VISIONS in The New York Times