Work fun into learning

The summer slide isn’t exclusively a quick trip down a slippery surface in your back yard or at a local playground. The summer slide is also a term used by educators to describe the negative impact that a prolonged vacation period has on young minds.

While most teachers consider the slide inevitable and prepare to spend the first month of the school year in remedial efforts to reengage their students, it’s a shame that class time that could be spent learning new things is invested instead on reviewing information they should already know.

Although the calendar says mid-July, school supplies are already beginning to creep onto retail shelves and the first day of school will be here before we know it. Savvy parents know that these precious vacation days don’t have to be filled with mindless activity and are engaging their kids to help lessen the impact of the dreaded “summer-slide”.

While we’re certainly not advocating long tedious hours at the kitchen table reviewing algebraic formulas, we do believe that there are lots of fun and creative ways to weave learning into everyday life. Here are just a few ideas that might help jump-start a summer of discovery:

•Car trips are fun place to help kids brush up their skills. Games involving letters, numbers and colors are always popular and help pass the time and lessen the “are we there yet?” whine.

A visit to Everett’s Jetty Island offers a wonderful opportunity to engage kids in environmental science and introduce new words to their vocabulary such as estuary, biodiversity and ecosystem. Schedule a tour with an island naturalist and you’ll likely learn as much as the kids as you navigate the island and observe the plants and animals that made up this unique natural environment.

You can’t go wrong with a stop at the local library. Most have cozy reading areas for young people and terrific summer programs with incentives to engage emerging readers.

•Monday’s Herald Good Life offers a sampling of some of the unique children’s activities available at our local libraries “Lots for kids to do at county’s libraries.” (http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20120716/LIVING/707169955/0/SEARCH.)

•Can’t make it to the library? Sno-Isle Regional Libraries (with branches in 21 locations in Snohomish and Island Counties) also maintains a terrific online interactive web site for kids filled with fun links to educational games and activities.

The theme for this year’s summer reading program is Dream Big – READ! We suspect that high levels of student participation in this program would be a dream come true for educators everywhere.