The Museum of Discovery, a Science & History museum in downtown Little Rock, is known for its kid-friendly, hands-on exhibits. I attended the opening of their latest exhibit this week. When you see kids interacting with the exhibits, they don't look like they're learning; they look like they're having fun. In reality, they're doing both.
It's an effective teaching method, and the museum has gained some prestigious recognition for its efforts. Earlier this month, The Museum of Discovery was named one of the top-10 science museums in the country by Mensa, the world's largest and oldest high-IQ society.
I mention the museum this week not for this accolade, but to highlight it as a source of summertime learning for students. While having fun is the focus of any child's summer break, keeping intellectual stimulation as part of their routine is important for their future educational success. Research has shown time and again that children involved in summer learning activities are better at retaining the knowledge they're taught at school. According to a RAND Corporation report, students may lose a month or more of grade-level equivalency in math and reading during the summer without learning options.
As a State, we've worked to keep students academically stimulated once school lets out. By keeping minds active while students are out of the classroom, we put them in the best position to learn when they return in the fall.
Museums, libraries, summer camps, arts classes and programs through other organizations are great opportunities for summer learning. But many parents can also find opportunities for their kids within their local school districts. The Arkansas Department of Education coordinates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which complements regular academic lessons during non-school hours. Some school districts' community learning centers remain active during the summer months. Parents may contact their local school district's office to see if this or something similar is available where they live.
The Arkansas Out-of-School Network also can help parents identify school-based or school-linked programs in their area. The Network is a sponsored initiative of Arkansas State University's Childhood Services. For parents who may not have direct access to summer learning programs, the Arkansas Educational Television Network also offers an array of broadcasting and online resources.
All of these initiatives can help students expand the knowledge and skills they have gained over the past year, and they can enjoy the experience while doing so. Learning isn't something you do only in school; it's a lifelong experience and a year-round endeavor. The importance of this becomes more evident as technology continues to advance and the economy becomes increasingly global. By keeping our children intellectually engaged in the summer, we can strike a healthy balance of learning and leisure, having fun while keeping their minds active.