Remember This Song?: "Those Lazy, Crazy Days of Summer!" Anne Jolly Focuses On: "STEM And Summer Learning Loss." Ideas For Kids Plus Tips For Summer Learning...

AnneJollyRE@L just chanced upon a summer blog this week by former RE@L guest-blogger, Anne Jolly. It brought to mind that Nat King Cole song that some of us older teachers may still recall:

“Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, Those days of soda and pretzels and beer, Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer.” Please note that the days of “soda and pretzels” apply to all of us, but the “beer” applies only to those over 21 among us. Yes, summer is a time of good cheer. But, lots of learning is lost during those three months. This makes it difficult for STEM teachers, and all teachers, to get the students back to where they were in understanding concepts when school ended. Some researchers say it can take a month for teachers and students to catch up again. Here’s Anne’s Rx for having STEM fun in the summer and being ready to roll when the school doors open again in the fall. She suggests some tips for planning STEM Fun in the summer. Here’s how she described it. And she’s talking about parents and teachers helping out:

EDU13US213-STEM-Web-Banner-final8 Tips for planning STEM fun:

“Summer is almost here and it’s time for kids to officially forget everything they learned during the school year. Right? Well, maybe not right….if schools, communities, and families keep the learning going.”

2b497a1b-4241-407e-a1ef-b469aa79045eHere are some excerpts from Anne’s blog:  “This summer plan to involve kids in creative and engaging learning. I’m campaigning for a Summer full of STEM fun – a sunny time filled with kids looking around (really looking) with curiosity. A summer in which kids ask questions, seek answers, and design solutions to problems.” She goes on to remind us of the many resources on the internet that can help kids regain their lost learning ground:

RE@L thinks these are great ideas. In fact our RE@L products will provide rapid access to such resources for teachers, students and even parents by using our new RE@L Portal for Learning Resources. Each user will have instant access to content, suggestions, lesson plans and ideas, project suggestions, quizzes, videos, links to those employed in STEM careers, oppotunities to do collaborative research with other students everywhere….even submitting their findings to various real-world STEM research projects. It’s like a virtual apprenticeship with master STEM workers, STEM teachers and other STEM learners. 

RE@L puts a special emphasis on getting girls interested in STEM subjects. There are many opportunities for women in a broad range of STEM careers. Anne Jolly’s ideas are truly worth trying given the benefits. She also offers 8 relevant tips to make it happen.

  • Find out what your kids are interested in and what problems they might like to solve. Some middle schoolers naturally gravitate toward the STEM subjects, while others may need more guidance identifying problems around their home and community this summer. Those issues may be in the environmental areas, health areas, construction and building areas, farming and crops, and so on.
  • Display curiosity about things you see and show your own interest in learning. Your enthusiasm will be a great motivator for interesting children in STEM and problem-solving. Demonstrate how kids can engage with their curious world. For example, out loud in front of your kids, point out something that you are curious about and ask yourself thoughtful questions about it. Then make some informed guesses about what the answers to those questions might be. Think out loud so that your kids can hear how you think through possible solutions.
  • Provide a stimulating and risk-free environment. Middle schoolers are definitely going to make mistakes when they try to solve STEM problems. They will most likely fail the first time or two they try to create a working device or usable solution. That’s okay. Heck, that’s even good! No one learns much from getting something right the first time. It’s the mistakes we make that keep us learning and growing. Let them know that “failure” is simply a normal step in the learning process. (Also remember that rapidly growing kids will find it difficult to learn if hungry or tired or upset.)
  • Organize kids in small teams to work together on STEM projects and activities. Help them with interpersonal skills by building teamwork skills. You’ll find guidance for involving kids in teamwork here. Scroll to the bottom of the document and download it for free.
  • Build interest in STEM areas.Talk with children about ways that STEM improves the quality of life. Make sure they can relate to the examples you pick. You might talk about curing illnesses, creating plastics that don’t pollute, developing increasingly powerful computers, developing improved skin and hair products, building attractive skyscrapers, or engineering new ways to bring clothing designs to the marketplace. STEM fields offer opportunities for everyone.
  • Challenge your kids to conduct internet searches for interesting STEM activities. They can find these on their own using a search engine; or you might direct them to sites such as Discover EngineeringDesign Squad NationNational Geographic Activities and Games, and Bring Science Home. I’m excited about all of those sites, although not every activity is strictly a STEM activity – some are science experiments.
  • Encourage your middle schoolers to start a STEM Club. They might start a local club or they could start a STEM group on a social network. Using social networks productively is a skill you can help them learn. (Tip: monitor, monitor, monitor!) Need someone to help you think through it? Marsha Ratzel (@ratzelster) uses Twitter highly effectively with her middleschoolers in STEM projects.
  • And maybe The Best Fun Idea of all: Create a Maker Space for your kids.Check out this post on just how to do that. Reinvent Summer Learning: Make it Up!

Here’s the link toAnne Jolly’s STEM blog. We suggest you bookmark this site for the many other STEM resources she adds throughout the school year. Anne also has an excellent book on this topic available this summer for 20% off. In Anne’s own words:” You can buy my book this summer for 20% off!” Just visit my book page at Routledge/Eye on Education.”

We at RE@L would be glad to post excerpts or ideas from any students, parents or teachers who try out these summer STEM tips. We will also try to answer any questions you may have. Just email them to us and we will print them in an upcoming RE@L Blog. OK, let’s get back to work! Excuse us! We meant to say, “Let’s get back to the STEM Fun!”

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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.