Combat Summer Learning Loss

— Written By Laura Grier and last updated by Nancy Power
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by Laura Grier

In the dog days of summer, youngsters are out of school for nine weeks. During those nine weeks, a tremendous loss could occur — learning loss. Students have spent the last nine months in the classroom. However, summer can rob them of their educational gains. Josey Landrieu, Assistant Extension Professor at the University of Minnesota Extension, states that, “summer learning loss occurs when children and youth are not actively engaged in high-quality learning opportunities between school terms.” It can contribute to the loss of about two months of grade level skills over the summer and leads to extended classroom time reviewing the previous year’s material in the fall.

In 2009, the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) reported that summer learning loss is greater in mathematics than any other subject matter, but it also occurs in reading and spelling. This loss appears to be greater for low-income or poverty stricken students. NSLA also reported “losses are cumulative and can lead to significant consequences later in life. Consider that by the end of third grade, four out of five low-income students fail to read proficiently, making them four times more likely to drop out of high school. Other consequences of a summer without learning include placement in less rigorous high school courses, higher high school drop out rates, and lower college attendance.”

Michigan State University Extension has identified several ways for children and youth to lessen summer learning loss:

  • Volunteer in the community or shadow someone in a career path that interests them.
  • Enroll in educational summer programs.
  • Seek out learning opportunities at your local library.
  • Discover hobbies or interest that were too time demanding during the school year.
  • Spend with the whole family — family trips, educational family games, exploring together.

Participating in 4-H is another option to subdue summer learning loss. Over 100 years ago, 4-H clubs were established to help us learn to take care of the home and preserve food in ways that would help sustain the family. Those same skills are necessary today; however, we have progressed and identified even larger endeavors for 4-H learning. Caring adult volunteers help introduce 4-H youth to critical thinking skills, decision making, and communication skills. 4-H clubs are a great place for youth to learn these skills.

As we design activities that challenge youth, we see an emergence of cooperation, and exploration. 4-H builds upon a child’s natural curiosity and love of exploration. Club leaders that step back and allow youth to “lead” can see the progression in confidence expressed by club members. Our “hands-on” and “learn by doing” approach to learning has not changed over the 100 years.

4-H allows youth and adults to work together to design programs that will teach skills for living. 4-H volunteers help to plan educational programs and organize community service projects to give the youth opportunities to gain life skills such as responsibility, record keeping, and leadership. Some volunteers work with specific programs that are limited to a shorter-term commitment. These programs might include teaching a class in an area of interest like woodworking, sewing, electric, or etiquette. Youth who develop such skills at an early age will continue to use those same skills as they grow, possibly helping them choose a career path that will lead to a successful and productive future.

For additional information on volunteer opportunities or 4-H Youth Development, please contact Catherine Shelley, 4-H Extension Agent, at cgshelle@ncsu.edu or 910-997-8255, or visit N.C. Cooperative Extension Richmond County 4-H.

Updated on Jan 14, 2021
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