Summer Fun Without the Summer Slide

June 05, 2013
Kelsey Herron
Common Sense Media
San Francisco, United States
CATEGORIES Common Sense Resources, Parents and Families

Every parent and teacher knows about the “summer slide”—the three months out of the year when kids are prone to losing skills during the time they spend out of school. This summer, however, many programmers and educators are determined to make this year’s vacation one filled with new learning opportunities.

The MacArthur Foundation and the National Writing Project are teaming up with other organizations, such as Facebook and the Born this Way Foundation, to kick off a four-month campaign to “help redefine learning in a digital age” and offer opportunities for students to continue learning outside of the classroom.

The partnership, taking place under the banner of “Summer of Making and Connecting,” will host a handful of events each month, taking place in alternative learning spaces and focusing on subjects that can easily be tied back to school curriculums in the fall.

One of the key elements of the campaign is Mozilla’s Maker Party, a global celebration of the innovative things youth can make with web. The party, which runs June through September, was announced officially at the White House Science Fair. While many of the events have not yet been announced, this year’s party will surely match last year’s 700 events in over 75 countries. Some of the organizations involved include Black Girls Code, the Sesame Workshop, and Sign up for the Maker Party 2013 mailing list for updates.

In addition to the Summer of Making and Connecting, we’ve also put together a new summer learning guide, “Digital Fun for Creative Kids” that rates apps and activities on their ability to stretch kids’ creative muscles in fun ways. Any by “creative,” we’re not just talking about arts and music, but making and tinkering as well. The guide is broken down into five categories, each subdivided by age group: crafting & creating art, storytelling, coding, creating media, and building.

One of the games reviewed, Little Big Planet-PS Vita, received a five-star rating for both quality and learning potential, and has a sophisticated game-making mode that inspires creativity. During the game, kids learn a complex set of rules for game building that they’ll use in the creation of virtual worlds, creatures, and game objectives. Users also get to practice online communication skills as they interact with other players in the game’s community and compare designs with peers. As our expert reviewer Chad Sapieha said, “LittleBigPlanet-PS Vita is intended to and does a great job of acquainting kids with game-building concepts.” 

Another app, Fotobabble, received four stars in both the learning potential and quality categories. It is a “creation tool” that allows users to add narratives to photographs and share them quickly with friends and family via email, text, or social media platforms. It is compatible for all iDevices and best for students 13 and up.

Fotobabble definitely lets teens jabber on about their photos, but they'll need guidance on privacy, appropriate use, and online safety if they're going to use it,” said teacher and curriculum writer Kim Alessi.

For extra tips and tricks on beating the summer brain drain, last year the writers at Mind/Shift compiled a list of 74 ways to keep the summer months both educational and fun. The list is broken down into five sections: reading and writing, places to go, at home, websites, and activities. Their suggestions run the gamut in terms of investment and age-appropriateness, but include ideas such as educational grocery trips and DIY puppet shows.

We’re sure you’ve got a list of your own, but hopefully these resources ensure a fun summer of learning ahead. We’d love to hear how you plan to keep your young learner engaged this summer.