SOUTH BEND Education may not be at the top of a child's summer to-do list, but experts argue it should be, even if it doesn't come in the traditional classroom setting.
Summer Learning Loss, or the summer slide, is a real phenomenon happening to kids across the country. It's a two or three month time period when children lose up to three months' worth of knowledge from the previous school year.
Researchers say the solution is a summer learning program. The good news for parents and students is that learning doesn't have to be in the form of a traditional classroom.
"Whether they pick an athletic sport or they pick an academic program, a youth development program, a science camp, forensic science, I just think the students need to be engaged," said Leslie Wesley, the program coordinator for the 21st Century Community Learning Center in South Bend.
"They need to be up off the couch, not playing video games and just engaged in some type of learning," said Wesley.
Wesley works with the 21st Century Community Learning Center to provide enrichment opportunities outside of the classroom. It's a national program, funded in the Hoosier state through the Department of Education. The program is available to low performing, high poverty schools across the country. In South Bend, it's a 3-year program. Last year, students participated in what was called, "The Road to College Career Readiness." In 2014, the organization used funds to put on a free science camp for area youth, called NASA Ignite.
"We made rockets," said 4th grade participant, Abraham. "We pulled the rubber band back, it shoots. We made gliders, too. I was happy because I get to learn more stuff."
"We made robot hands," said Toniyah, another participant. "We pull the strings and the fingers move. It's cool. I like the projects we do and the teachers."
The push for math and science is growing. Another program, also funded through a state grant, gives area youth the chance to practice math and science in a real world setting. E2 or Earth Day Every day is a camp that uses the Potawatomi Zoo and the St. Joseph River as a backdrop to teach. Undergraduate teaching-hopefuls put on the camp as practice before the classroom.
"We found there's a lag in the learning experience in the summer months," said Terri Hebert, an assistant professor in the School of Education at Indiana University-South Bend (IUSB).
"We wanted to try and step in and provide a bridge and also to provide structured opportunities for students to get out in the environment," said Herbert.
All of the programs put on by IUSB are taught by teachers working toward his or her degree. Officials with the school of education say, the camps are a win-win for both students and area youth.
"One of the things I know is that summer learning experience programs like these can provide some of the best opportunities for novice teachers to learn to teach," said Dr. Marvin Lynn, the Dean of the School of Education at IUSB.
Continuous research proves, low income children are the most at risk for summer learning loss. Experts say the only way to overcome the potentially detrimental loss is a summer program.
"We have a lot more teachers tell us they can tell the difference in students who've had 30, 60 or 90 hours of some form of education over the summer," said Wesley.
For more information about summer camp opportunities through IUSB, click here.
For more information about NASA Ignite, click here.