Halting the ‘summer learning slide’ with some fun and games.
GUEST COLUMN | by Lane Jabaay
With the holiday weekend upon us, summer is officially here for students and teachers alike. Summer offers a change of schedule and in the best case – no homework! However, it’s also a time when students fall into the dreaded ‘summer leaning slide’. Researchers found that the summer learning slide, or loss of student performance levels, equates to about a month of learning lost throughout the summer. More disturbing, however, is that findings show that summer learning loss is cumulative, and rates are far more substantial for low-income students versus their higher-income counterparts, contributing to an even greater widening of the achievement gap.
In the City
Mayors in major U.S. cities are following Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s lead by implementing “Summer of Learning” campaigns within their cities for students. The initiatives are designed to purposely quell the summer learning slide while enhancing students’ knowledge and skill-sets around STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).
In addition to keeping children mentally engaged, summer learning programs are also intended to link school children to their community through innovative organizations providing enrichment opportunities, activity-based learning and digital literacy options focused on STEAM disciplines. Last summer, Chicago created more than 250 STEAM learning opportunities through local organizations. Chicago’s youngest citizens earned over 100,000 digital badges by participating in the educational opportunities, which include both on-site and online experiences.
Summer of Promise
Software and technology offer the promise to transport children from the library, or computer lab, to a place of imagination. Digital literacy is a piece of curricula programming that must be included if our young people are going to be successful as global citizens in the 21st century.
Students need to be provided engaging and relevant technology-based content in a format they can comprehend. Online games and software solutions are becoming a safe place for students and young adults to “try on” new personas and ideals while being immersed in experiential STEAM programs. Using the summer months to integrate such programming has the potential to help students achieve two to three month gains in reading and math, in addition to positive changes in students’ attitudes toward learning and education.
In support of summer learning, the city of Los Angeles, working in conjunction with the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) Beyond the Bell Division, will offer a ‘Whole Child’ Development program, called SHAKTI Warriors, as one of their innovative STEAM badging opportunities. SHAKTI Warriors is a holistically integrated digital education curriculum that uses super heroes to serve as modern day role models to ground children in STEAM basics and character education.
LAUSD’s independent curriculum audit found Shakti Warrior’s computer activities highly affective and engaging for students due to the combination of rich educational content delivered in a compelling gaming format where students don’t realize they are learning. Students create online avatars that represent themselves and are required to master the STEAM basics, aligned to Common Core Standards.
When artfully created, technology-based curriculum for 21st century classrooms can promote dialogue, critical-thinking, and communication skills. Technology tools for communication, collaboration, social networking, and user-generated content are already transforming both mainstream and school culture.
The summer learning initiatives offered by cities has the potential to help close the achievement gap by engaging students in STEAM-focused activities through imaginative play. Students participating in summer learning, whether in Chicago, Los Angeles, or other cities, will be given the opportunities to play online and in their communities in ways that will engage and fascinate them. In fact, the only ‘sliding’ the students will hopefully do — is on the playground.
Lane Jabaay is President and CEO of H2Group, a multimedia company that develops innovative educational curriculum focused on whole-child development best known for the creation of the Shakti Warriors whole-child development digital curriculum used in after school programming. Visit: SWHeroes and www.shaktiwarriors.com