Authentic Learning
5 Ways to Keep Learning Alive This Summer
Elizabeth Yun
Summer learning doesn’t need to adhere to plans and rigid structures. Here’s how to continue to foster growth all summer while having fun.
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Keep learning alive while having fun this summer with these ways to foster curiosity and growth.

With the extended disruptions to learning happening due to COVID-19, now more than ever, we need to keep authentic learning alive. As we transition into summer, the concerns that come with “summer slide,” or the learning regression that happens during the long summer break, are elevated by longer school closures. A review of 39 studies found that students typically lose approximately one month of learning from the school year during the summer. This loss impacts math skills the most, with children losing as much as 28 percent of their math learning.

Unfortunately, the early shutdown of schools due to COVID has made both educators and parents concerned for an even worse summer slide. And their fears aren’t unfounded. A new study found that students were on track to lose 30 percent of their reading progress and half (or, in a worst case scenario, even all) of their math growth from the 2019-20 school year due to COVID-related school closures. 

It’s alarming, but we shouldn’t lose heart. There are ways for parents to keep their children engaged and continue their educational growth during the summer to alleviate this “COVID slide.” Here are some simple and fun project-based learning initiatives to foster growth this summer. 

1. Go for an Adventure Walk

As shelter-in-place restrictions loosen and the weather gets warmer, we can start to get outside more. Transform something as simple as a neighborhood walk into an adventure by choosing a “mission” for each outing. Collect or photograph items that start with each letter of the alphabet or match every color of the rainbow. If you’re exploring nature, collect shells, rocks, or leaves and categorize them by their shapes and types. 

Using these items, your child can create an alphabet or color scrapbook. If they collected leaves or rocks, they can research different types of leaves and rocks, and create a workbook with information about their properties. Allow your child to develop their technological savviness by creating a digital scrapbook using an app like Skrappy. Bonus: They can become teachers themselves by using their homemade books to teach younger siblings, friends, and neighbors. 

2. Use Everyday Activities as Learning Opportunities

Including your children in everyday tasks and chores will teach them responsibility and can be easily tailored into learning opportunities. Cooking and baking are great ways to learn math and chemistry in a manner that is authentic and relevant to their lives. A grocery store trip can become a mission to identify colors, practice reading and math skills, and learn about commerce. Utilize outdoor chores like gardening to identify weeds, different types of flowers and leaves, and photograph bugs, then create a scrapbook of how they support our ecosystem.   

Add a project component to household activities by challenging your child to a Chopped! throwdown. Create a mystery box of ingredients and invite them to learn about where different foods originate—the history of how they were cultivated for human consumption and how they have evolved. Bonus: You’ll get a delicious family meal or snack out of it!

3. Take Advantage of Technology

Navigating the dual role of parent and educator can be difficult. Thankfully, there are many experienced educators who are able to bring their skills into your home using technology. Screen time doesn’t have to be a diversion or escape; it can be an important educational tool that maintains connections with others and allows students to continue working on project-based learning assignments designed by teachers. 

With virtual programs like Altitude Learning @Home, children can engage in authentic learning initiatives designed and led by seasoned educators. Each week begins with a kick-off video conference where an educator presents a learning topic to explore that week and a multidisciplinary project, such as creating a wilderness guide or designing an eco-friendly home, based on grade level. Children spend the week working independently on their projects with the support of their educator guide, then present their findings and final project on Friday at a Learning Celebration. 

Remote learning initiatives like these, enabled by technology, have made it possible to continue to engage in learning projects that align to what children would be doing at school, connect with an educator, and continue to build community with their peers. They also develop critical, real-world skills like agency, time management, and problem-solving.

Learn how you can bring project-based learning into your home today with Altitude Learning @Home.

4. Let Imaginations Run Wild

A simple game of make believe can unlock an entire world of authentic, project-based learning. How many of us made our own makeshift restaurants, grocery stores, Tony-worthy theatrical productions, and obstacle courses when we were kids? Not only do these activities allow children to mimic adult responsibilities, they encourage them to design and lead their own learning.  

Harness the educational power of your child’s imagination by setting educational goals and loose boundaries for their projects. For example, their restaurant menu could explain where ingredients are from and explain the different chemical reactions that take place when they combine ingredients and heat food. If the project for the week is to write and perform a play (with siblings or a cast of stuffed animals), they can hone their written communication skills by designing a program complete with a synopsis, cast of characters, and even advertising for local businesses.

5. Conduct an At-Home Science Project

There’s a wealth of learning opportunities around your home. Conduct simple, fun science experiments (Is it time to hop on the “making your own sourdough starter” train?) and let your child explore and create on their own. No, you don’t have to make a mess with a homemade volcano.

One simple home experiment is to invite your child to design their own raft or sailboat. Turn it into a multifaceted project by asking them to test what types of household objects and materials sink and float; learn how shape affects buoyancy; research different bodies of water and their properties; and understand how environmental factors like weather and surf affect the way vessels move. For their “final” project, they can build a model vessel to take sailing on your next outing.

Another engaging, hands-on project is to design and build a bird feeder. Have your child research different types of bird feeders, then build and decorate their feeder. Once it’s set up, they can keep watch of the different types of birds that come to your yard, document them in photos, and learn more about them.

Learning doesn’t have to happen inside a classroom or during a set school year. Summer is the perfect time to encourage children to grow and learn by exploring the world around them. These projects might not require much effort to execute, but their benefits to your children’s emotional and educational growth are enormous. 

We want to hear your ideas for keeping learning alive this summer! Share your at-home projects with us on Twitter @AltitudeLearn, Instagram @altitudelearning, Facebook, or LinkedIn.