The school year is coming to an end. When I say “summer slide,” do you picture fun on the playground? Actually, summer slide is a serious concern. Students can lose up to three months of learning progress over the summer, according to the National Summer Learning Association. They may return to school in the fall with academic skills significantly lower than when they left the previous spring. The risk of a slide is especially great in STEM subjects.
And students from low-income families are particularly at risk; they’re less likely to be enrolled in summer camps and other formal education activities, which can be costly. Out-of-school time programs that serve diverse populations are making fighting the summer STEM slide a priority, with programs like Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s "Summer Brain Gain" and 4-H's STEM Camps.
“STEM is a very important part of our education program here, and the more we can do for the kids the better,” says Alyse Faiella, an education director and volunteer coordinator with Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. She uses EiE’s Engineering Adventures (for elementary students) and Engineering Everywhere (for middle schoolers) in both afterschool and summer sessions at the South Boston Clubhouse.
This Boys & Girls Club White Paper on STEM and out-of-school time (right) released last fall emphasizes the importance of summer STEM learning and makes a number of recommendations, including bringing in volunteers who work in STEM fields to serve as mentors.
That approach has worked well for Faiella. “When we built rockets for the Engineering Adventures unit Liftoff: Engineering Rockets and Rovers, I found a volunteer who was a structural engineer to come in and gave pointers,” she says. “The kids were fascinated to learn about his work, and even if he wasn’t a rocket scientist, he had the basic knowledge to build stomp rockets! I think it inspired the kids to say, 'If I do well in school, I could be like him.'"
Here at EiE, we’re excited to help fight summer slide by supporting summer programs across the country with our free, hands-on, summer-friendly engineering activities like engineering ice cream, designing a recycled race car, or creating a custom bubble blower.
All of these and more are free-to-download from our website. And they call for inexpensive, easy to find materials, so they work equally well in summer programs and at home. Check them out today!