Learning can continue in summer
By this point in the summer, many parents already have heard their children utter that dreaded phrase. They may not have, however, if their children have been participating in the summer programs offered by several local Catholic schools.
The faculties at these schools have developed summer programs intended not only to keep kids entertained during the summer, but also to keep them learning and exercising their brains as well. Several other teachers have given tips to parents who are looking for other ways to keep their kids learning and engaged during the summer, thus easing their transition back to school in the fall.
"We know that children lose so much over the summer," explained Kathleen Dougherty, who retired as principal at Holy Cross School in Charlotte at the end of the 2012-13 school year. "We always have to start off (a new school year) with a little jump-start review. We encourage them (students) to at least continue with their reading and math over the summer."
Holy Cross offers a summer program complete with field trips, educational opportunities and exciting lunches, Dougherty added. The six-week program was developed several years ago by Mary Martell, who was a preschool teacher at Holy Cross at the time but recently succeeded Dougherty as principal. In the ensuing years the program has become very popular in the Charlotte community, Dougherty said.
"A big component of our program is exploring our local community," Martell said, noting that in previous years participants have learned about and climbed to the top of the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse, gone inside the nearby O'Rorke lift bridge and taken boat rides on the Erie Canal.
"This year we will explore a different park in the county each week. We work closely with the Charlotte library and we provide music, physical education and art during each week of our summer camp. Vacation Bible school is also included during the first week. We learn, we pray, we have fun and explore," she added.
Holy Cross also offers another summer program with an even stronger focus on academics, especially math and English language arts, Dougherty said. The students who come to this program five mornings a week brush up on their skills, participate in learning activities and play educational games. This program not only helps students retain what they learned in the previous school year, but also helps them move ahead, Dougherty said.
"Those first days they come in with these sad faces. There's that negative connotation about summer school. Then they get here and they love it and don't want to leave. It's just a nice opportunity to learn in a small group," she noted.
Like Holy Cross, Holy Family Elementary School in Elmira also offers a day camp during the summer, said Lorie Brink, principal. Holy Family teachers staff the camp, which is in its second year, and help the children work on projects focused on each week's theme.
"Our goal is to keep kids connected with school in a more relaxed, informal environment with current staff," Brink said. "It's important to keep kids learning, but even more important to keep the engagement with the school. Our goal is for the children to keep loving coming to school."
Parents who don't send their children to educational day camps can still help their children to learn and stay active over the summer, noted Susan Conlogue, sixth-grade teacher at St. Louis School in Pittsford. Parents can do so by simply helping their children learn more about the local area and its rich history and many resources, she said. Something as simple as walking along the Erie Canal and feeding the ducks can become a learning experience if families go home and read about the canal, its history and its importance to the region. This helps build background knowledge the children can draw upon when they reach fourth grade and study the Erie Canal in school, Conlogue said.
"Any of those experiences build that background and give them something to write about and talk about. It can be so enriching for families and it keeps kids thinking and learning in a different way. It's more experiential," she said.
Family vacations can be prime times for such experiential learning, agreed Amy Sanderson, kindergarten teacher at St. Louis. When she teaches a unit on money and tells kids that Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, is the building pictured on the back side of the nickel, students often raise their hands to tell her they've visited Monticello, she noted.
Each June Sanderson sends a note home with suggested ways for parents to help keep their kids learning over the summer. These suggestions range from making a scrapbook of animal photos, writing all the numbers between 1 and 100, cutting a picture into a puzzle and piecing it back together again to adding up the total cost of items added to the grocery cart. She also encourages families to visit educational websites, such as Brainquest.com or kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids.
"I see a difference in children whose parents are proactive (in educating them) every single day. It's a 365-day-a-year job," she said.