Summer can make an anytime learning experience

With the 2011-12 school year coming to a close, it is imperative for students and staff to focus on a strong finish. Final projects and assessments will be some of the tools districts use to gauge success at all levels. Although testing is only a snapshot of a student’s success, families rely on the feedback for planning purposes. With that said, a great question would be, “What skills can students and parents effectively improve during the summer?”

For consideration: while developing summer plans, families can choose to make each and every adventure something that ties real world activities to academics. Planning trips, in town or out of town, can make for interesting math skill development.

Maps (paper or electronic) allow for multiple route consideration. These routes can be considered for speed of the trip, sight-seeing possibilities, shopping opportunities and more. Map skills, timing and logistics, cooperation and perhaps even negotiation skills can be experienced by the entire group.

If travel is not a part of the “summer plan,” local academic or sport camps could serve as a positive step toward involvement. Community Education information is available in most school disctricts, and families are encouraged to engage.

Periodically, the weather is a spoiler. Some of the greatest plans are delayed or cancelled, and families find themselves facing an unexpected change. One of the best alternatives – a pastime used anywhere – is reading. I believe all of us know reading is the one skill that may be enhanced exponentially with summer attention.

Several years ago, Independent School District No.15, St. Francis, started a campaign aimed at improving reading skills during the summer; students in the elementary schools are asked to read and keep a log of their efforts. Students who read and record their summer achievement are able to qualify for up to three books.

Students who make the choice to read in June, July and August, return better prepared in the fall. In addition to the enjoyment of reading, the incentive to earn books while improving reading skills is a combination for success. During our back-to-school open houses in the fall, students from the National Honor Society at St. Francis High School station themselves in the three elementary schools and reward those who chose to read in the “off season.”

Our families with students in grades one through eight are taking a close look at our Summer Springboard program. Rather than straddle the July Fourth week, we will offer summer school in this manner: we will run two back-to-back, three-week sessions during the last three weeks of July and the first three weeks of August. Our students are welcome to attend either one or both of the sessions.

IDS 15 students did an excellent job during Springboard last summer, and we believe this addition of flexibility will work for even more of our families this summer.

For St. Francis High School students, we will offer some credit recovery classes in the areas of math, language arts, science and social studies, along with Project Handshake for some of our incoming ninth-grade students.

We are finishing 2011-12 in an extremely positive manner. Knowing the summer plan earlier, rather than later, is also good; this way families can plan and be ready for the Summer Springboard program starting in mid-July and/or early August. As summer plans are developed, please read all you can in the summer and take the limit off learning. Summer can truly make learning an anywhere, anytime experience.

Ed Saxton is the superintendent of the St. Francis Indpendent School District 15.

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