Staying sharp: Keeping kids from the 'summer slide'

Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch
  • Studies show students lose a month of learning over the summer.
  • Local teachers say students should stay engaged with reading or summer camps to avoid the slide.

As the sweltering summer months pass by, many students on summer break are trying to keep cool and have fun.

However, many local educators say they hope parents take initiative to keep their kids academically active and out of the summer slide, which refers to students losing some of the knowledge they gained during the previous school year.

The term " summer slide" was coined after a study published by the University of Missouri and Tennessee State University in 1996 that found students lose about a month of learning during summer vacation.

'Summer without structure': For low-income students, the slide hinders overall progress over the year.

Poorer students fell behind by nearly three years — compared with their middle-class peers —  by the time they reach fifth grade, according to a study by the National Summer Learning Association.

Parents can help their children avoid learning loss over the summer by keeping them engaged through everyday activities and educational programs, according to Asa Church, a middle school teacher at York Country Day School.

“Summer is an awesome opportunity to flip the script (and) build relationships,” he said, adding interaction is one of the most important attributes a young mind can learn.

Church said a common issue with summer break is the absence of learning opportunities, essentially creating a three-month learning-free vacation.

“(Summer break) shouldn’t be complete summer days where (students’) sleep schedules are getting off and sort of free-styling everything,” he said.

Church said activities such as budgeting a grocery trip and choosing which items constitute a better deal can stimulate a child's brain in everyday scenarios, he added.

Camps: Church, who also is director of summer programs for the school, said getting children involved in learning programs such as a summer camp helps students keep a healthy routine while parents are at work.

York Country Day has a back-to-school “boot camp” that provides much of what is in a typical school day: English, arts, math and physical education. It also incorporates games and snack breaks for students to interact with one another.

The York City School District, in collaboration with its police department, recently took on summer learning camps by launching the first-ever SAFE Camp.

York City School District Police Chief Michael Muldrow said last month that in consultation for the camp, parents expressed concerns about the lack of "healthy, structured programming” over the summer.

The camp has provided a holistic curriculum for students, including physical activity, science, continuing education and volunteer work.

On Tuesday, students held a car wash in front of the York City School District administration building and raised $835, all of which will go to the Big Brother Big Sisters of York and Adams Counties.

York City School PD to start SAFE Camp next month

Getting students back in the groove through summer learning could increase the amount of information they learn during the school year.

Hannah Mackay, a teacher at Derry Township School District in Hershey, said she often spends the beginning of the school year reviewing much of what was taught in the prior grade.

Mackay added that providing real-life experiences such as going to national parks and museums helps children develop to a level of maturity and understanding that will increase learning in the future.

“It broadens their world view and their interests,” she added.

Setting the example: While students are on vacation, many teachers are at work planning for the new school year and continuing their education.

Mackay was one of more than a dozen local educators who took a weeklong course at Penn State York on educating students in the internet age.

Ashley Tice, an English Language Arts teacher at Dover Intermediate School, said taking courses such the one at Penn State York helps keep her at the forefront of education — even 10 years into her career at Dover.

“I want to engage and relate to where my students are” she said. “I want the learning to be mutual.”

Teachers can ensure a vibrant classroom by continuing their education, said Francine Baker, coordinator of the educational master’s program at Penn State York.

“It’s a great way to grow to keep yourself revitalized and say, ‘This is why I do this everyday,’” she said.

For more information about York County Day School Summer Camps, including the back to school Summer Academy camp and robotics camp, visit the school's website at