If you’re worried that remote learning and shorter school days have taken a toll on your kids’ education, you’re not alone. The summer brain drain caused by swapping school for a day at the pool is real. “This shift in mindset [from school year to summer] leaves some students experiencing a ‘summer learning loss’ when they return to school in the fall,” says Sumi Hagiwara, chairperson, Department of Teaching and Learning, Montclair State University.
Nevertheless, to mitigate the summer slump schools typically require students to pore over grade-specific academic packets, attend summer school or sign up for tutoring—but that can get old for kids looking to have fun. Enter the growing popularity of smart summer programs. Focusing on academic enrichment along with enjoyment allows kids to pick up a new language, finesse storytelling skills, develop high tech savvy, indulge in scientific curiosity and even become ultra proficient in the numerical arts (aka math) all while having a blast.
“All children benefit from stimulating and relevant activities regardless of age, unless their willingness to actively participate is not genuine,” says Fred Douglas, president of the New Jersey School Counselor Association. A kid who wants cookouts and lanyards may not be thrilled about coding and equations. “The word ‘camp’ and the word ‘math’ are not a direct match in the minds of most children,” he says. Yet a kid who loves to rock equations may be thrilled to crunch numbers. Whatever academic camp you choose—and there are so many options—it’s important that your child buys in.
“If the parent enrolls a child in a summer program without the child’s input, then interest and fidelity to the summer program may be compromised from the start,” notes Hagiwara. The right camp will pique your child’s curiosity and hone his or her academic ability. And what if said child prefers skateboarding camp or surfing and swimming in LBI? It’s not the end of the world.
“Can kids regress academically during the summer? Yes,” says Hagiwara. “But they do continue to learn during the summer, just in different ways. Regardless of how students continue to practice their skills and deepen their academic knowledge—whether it’s through summer packets or programs, spending time with family and friends, traveling, playing games or sports, working or helping others in their community—the key to ongoing learning is connecting the experience with what is meaningful to the child.”
We’ve made a list of brain-boosting programs sure to brighten your child’s summer—and light the way to a fantastic fall.
THE ELISABETH MORROW SCHOOL
Camp meets classroom at Summer Explorations (kids age 2 through grade 9), which offers selections that delve into genetics, chemistry, mythology, history, astronomy, architecture and more.
THE WRITERS CIRCLE
Teen scribes honing their craft at WC’s week-long Summer Writing Intensive at Drew University focus on genres like poetry, playwriting or memoirs, enjoying support, feedback and literary fun along the way.
Hands-on in-person STEAM (think engineering, math, programming) learning will keep your child age 3-15 in peak performance mode (full and half days available). Virtual, small group camp will also be available.
Typically held at one of 150+ campuses nationwide, ID Tech’s summer camps focus on favorite STEM obsessions such as coding in Roblox and Minecraft. Virtual tech camp will definitely be offered for summer 2021; in-person decisions will be made this spring.
Classes designed to pique campers’ curiosity include: Strategy Gaming, Electronic Music Immersion, Constitutional Debate and Organizations and Leadership. Middle school courses are open to rising sixth through eighth graders, while additional courses are available to high schoolers. Tuition includes lunch but not transportation.
Top-notch academics and enrichment for young scholars grades 3-12 meet terrific classes for thinkers like podcasting and financial literacy. While some classes will be virtual, the plan is for the majority to be in-person on the private school’s gorgeous campus.
This co-ed summer program offers prep classes for kids entering kindergarten to get them ready for their first day of school. Middle schoolers through high schoolers can focus on classes like geometry, physics and SAT prep.
TESSA INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL
Native Spanish, French or Mandarin speakers immerse kids ages 2.5-8 in their choice of language through interactive activities, crafts and whimsical themes such as Space Explorer, On a Pirate Ship and Hollywood.
The Academy at Rutgers for Girls in Engineering and Technology (TARGET) invites 6th-12th graders for a weeklong, grade level intro to career opportunities within STEM though workshops, labs, mentoring and more, all held on Rutgers’ science-focused Busch campus.
PINGRY BIG BLUE SUMMER
An academic mix of core and enrichment classes (language arts, math, engineering, architecture and more) will keep minds sharp whether for credit or the competitive edge. Add a half-day of sports or day camp to round out the camp experience.
WARDLAW + HARTRIDGE
The Brain Boosters Junior Academics (grades 1-5) is a three-week program focused on using technology and hands-on activities to develop math, writing and reading skills. The Summer Scholars (grades 6-12) offers rigorous college preparatory-style courses.
WINSTON PREPARATORY SCHOOL
The month-long Summer Enrichment Program boosts language facility, math aptitude, executive functioning and independence though small classes grouped by skill level and learning style, plus daily 1:1 instruction targeting the area of greatest need. Culinary arts, photography, social pragmatics and other activities are offered.