Summer Learning Opportunities for Childrechild coming down a sliden
by Bob Melton, Testing Coordinator


For many students, the time off for summer is truly time off from the process of education. How can we give them that time off and still keep them ready for school?

Whether the beginning of school is two months or two weeks away, there is still time to give valuable learning opportunities to your child.

The key is to make summer a time for exploration and discovery with your child in a way that maximizes informal educational experiences. Following is a list of ideas and activities you can do with your child to enhance the school experience and reduce the time it takes for him or her to get up to speed in the new school year.

Explore the museums. Visit local museums such as Science Museum Oklahoma, the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. While you're visiting, check into special classes that are offered for chilren. Ranging from a few hours to a week in duration, the classes cover a wide range of topics and ages.

Visit the zoo. The new exhibits are great and short visits in the cooler morning hours are a good time to stroll through the gardened walkways and see the animals when they are more active. Zoo classes are high quality learning experiences for kids, and the zoo docent staff is terrific.

Cook with your child. Planning meals and following recipes have very strong links to math and science. What better ways to provide practice in making predictions, following directions, measuring, calculating, and watching chemical reactions?

Take frequent walks with your child around the neighborhood. Spend time at Martin Park Nature Center. This is one of Oklahoma City's best kept secrets and is a good way for kids to experience Oklahoma nature up-close and personal.

Go to the library often! Besides the wealth of books, the library offers many free sessions on a variety of topics like songs and storytelling that are wonderful learning experiences.

Read, read, read. Read to your younger child or have your child read a book to you. A magazine subscription for the child can deliver reading opportunities to your door. I like the magazines produced for children by the National Wildlife Federation (Your Big Backyard, Ranger Rick); National Geographic (World); Smithsonian (Muse), Wildlife Education, Ltd. (Zoobooks); and Cobblestone Publishing (Odyssey).

Instead of telephoning relatives, have your child write them a letter or an e-mail. Write to someone each week.

Have your child keep a journal. This could be a diary, but it could also be a summer family chronicle.

Don't pass on the learning experiences when vacation traveling. Observe and comment on the sights along the way, play the "license plate game," take a photo of each "Leaving..." and "Welcome to..." sign as you pass from one state to another, photograph landmarks and major rivers that you pass, give your child a camera and have them keep a log of what they photographed, and buy a postcard every time you stop and have your child write and mail a note to themselves or a relative.

These are only a few ways you can keep your child active and involved in learning during the summer. But these are not necessarily summer-only activities. Learning is a process that requires teachers, parents and students working in formal and informal settings. Together we can build the full, rich foundation of learning experiences for children to grow to their potential.