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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

As kids, we loved our summer breaks. As parents and teachers, we sometimes wonder if it derails a kid’s progress in school. Often referred to as “the summer brain drain,” the worry is that too much down time allows students to not only fritter away what they might have learned in the previous school year, but it also gets them out of learning mode.

If you’re concerned about this, let me suggest a few things that might ease the problem and help plug the drain.

If you think about it, kids look forward to their summer break with such enthusiasm not simply because it means no school, but because it also means lots of fun activities. Well, why not think about all of the ways you can weave learning opportunities into those activities?

Examples: If you’re taking your kids out to a baseball game, talk to them about the way a player’s batting average is determined. Even if they only keep track of a player’s average for that one game, it becomes a fun math project for them. If a guy gets one hit in four at-bats, they’ll suddenly understand where the .250 average comes from. (For your own help, one hit divided by four at-bats.)

If you take them to the aquarium, why not have them research the history of sharks. Why sharks? Well, besides the fact that they’re fascinating animals, their history dates back literally tens of millions of years, and it provides a great opportunity for young people to learn about how some species die out, while others evolve and mutate into the familiar creatures we see today.

Kids love going to the movies. I know a parent who did something fun after taking her son to see one of his favorite superheroes in a summer action flick. She challenged him to go home afterwards and create his own comic book, featuring that superhero. It allowed him to come up with his own unique story (you KNOW I love that!), and it also challenged him artistically. He ended up breaking out the colored pencils and creating an eight-page masterpiece, completely illustrated. He felt like a total rock star afterwards.

Going on a long road trip? Why not use the time in the car to investigate the geography along the way, or invite the kids to plot different courses on a map, complete with details on distance and ETA. Today’s innovative new tech tools can make it fun.

And, of course, there are so many more that you can come up with. Just because the kids might be out of class for a long break, it doesn’t mean that their brains have to shut down completely. The goal is to find fun activities that will embellish their experiences out of school. They’ll love it, and you probably will too!

If you have other suggestions, comments here would be appreciated by many. Thank you, and enjoy the summer!

Dom Testa is an author, speaker, morning radio show host, and has kept a ficus tree alive for twenty two years. He’s also the founder and president of The Big Brain Club, a non-profit foundation that helps young people embrace the idea that Smart Is Cool. More info at www.DomTesta.com.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want students to keep using their brains.