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Dale McCreedy

Summer Slide sounds like fun – but it isn’t!

Without high-quality learning experiences during the summer months, children lose hard-earned skills gained during the school year. The good news is, fighting against summer slide does not need to be costly, just intentional.

Without intervention, students’ math and reading skills tend to take a dive over the summer which, when added up across many summers, has led to as much as a two-year skills gap between children who participate in summer learning experiences and those who don’t. A great starting point to avoid this slide is exploring local non-profit institutions.

Museums and libraries are perfect places for summer learning resources and can be key partners in helping kids stay engaged. Area museums, like the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, offer programs in their facilities as well as out in the community – some fee-based and some free.

Discovery Center’s summer camp program “Campology” is a fee-based camp for Pre-K through 4th grades that offers themed weeks of engaging activities with lunch included.

Discovery Center is also leading free, community-based programs. GSK – a pharmaceutical company committed to science learning – has provided the funding and resources for Discovery Center to offer GSK Science in the Summer™, a hands-on science program for children in 2nd-6th grades. These classes take place in libraries and youth-serving sites across the region.

GSK Science in the Summer aspires to spark a lifelong love of science and interest in STEM careers, and Discovery Center is one of only 27 entities across the country offering this program. This summer alone, 26,000 children across the U.S. will participate in the program, which focuses on The Science of Me. Children will discover how food fuels our bodies, where oxygen goes when we breathe it, how our brains interpret the world, and the role DNA plays in making us who we are.

Libraries implementing GSK Science in the Summer include Shelbyville Public Library, Mt. Juliet Library, and Palmer Library. Patterson Park Community Center is also offering the program. Those interested in the program may contact those sites directly to register.

Another great and free opportunity is to participate in summer reading programs at local libraries. The Tennessee State Library and Archives sponsors free programs in library branches throughout the state. Tennessee is part of a 50-state consortium of libraries that develops the materials for the summer reading program, with a different theme each summer.

This year, libraries across the state are engaged in reading programs focused on the overarching theme of space, which is promoted under the slogan “A Universe of Stories.” Discovery Center is pleased to be supporting this effort with its mobile astronomy program at many of the branches.

There are many additional local experiences that are free. To find more programs by zip code, age group, cost, and location, visit theconnectory.org. The Connectory is a national database that makes connections to science, technology, engineering and math-focused learning opportunities that inspire young people to explore, discover, and create.

And don’t minimize the impact parents or caregivers can have from the comfort of home. It’s OK to say “no” to screen time and instead focus on “experiences.” Build in expectations for learning by reading, playing board games that require math and reading skills, playing spelling or math games while in the car or bath, and/or picking a topic of special interest to research.

“Summer slide” increases with age through elementary and middle school. So, help stop this troubling trend by embedding reading and math in your summer days.

Dale McCreedy, Ph.D., is the Vice President of Audience & Community Engagement for Discovery Center at Murfree Spring. For more information about the Discovery Center and its summer programs, go to www.explorethedc.org.

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