2017-07-21 / Columns

Summer is time for growth and learning

Superintendent’s Spotlight
By Dr. Kathryn Hawes Special to the Post

Summer learning loss is a common concern for teachers and parents alike. However, brain researchers tell us that people don’t actually lose learning.

The brain simply makes information more or less accessible based upon how often and how recently it is accessed. This is not exclusive to children.

As adults, you want to remember where you parked your car today, not a week or a month ago. The old information is essentially filed away when it is not used for some time.

Our summer reading guides, teacher worksheet packets and assigned summer homework are designed to help students periodically retrieve their knowledge, keeping the information at the forefront of the brain.

Without such periodic retrieval, we spend the beginning of the school year helping students find the information that has been filed away. It is not lost but simply needs to be rediscovered.

Summer in our beautiful community provides far more opportunities for deep exploration and growth.

For my twin sons, this will be the summer when they graduate from their swim floaties and training wheels. My daughter is deepening her learning through visual arts camp and animal humane education camp.

They are growing physically, socially and emotionally. And, even with daily baths, they are generally grubby. That is because the work of catching frogs, making mud pies and building tree forts is messy.

Life lessons in science, social skills and teamwork are embedded. Play is the work of childhood and that seems never more apparent than on long summer days.

Our older students are getting work experiences that teach valuable skills in communication, perseverance, and responsibility.

My hope is for my children, and the other 2,700 in our schools, to enter classrooms in the fall having not only maintained access to their previous academic learning but having grown in many other ways over the summer.

Summer is a time for growth and learning across our school community. Our teachers, administrators and school board directors are also growing and deepening their learning over the summer months. Many engage in service learning opportunities, take trips and visit with friends to expand their knowledge.

Dozens of teams of teachers are working on curriculum design across our schools. Others are taking classes or attending workshops to deepen their professional knowledge.

Our administrative team is reading and discussing research on which instructional practices have the greatest impact of student achievement. The school board is holding a retreat to focus on continued growth and goal setting for the upcoming school year.

Members of the transportation department are getting up to speed on new regulations and will hone their driving skills in the annual bus rodeo during the state conference at Sugarloaf next week.

The school nutrition team is focused upon wellness and healthy school lunches. Our facilities crew continues to learn more about our improving buildings, security, and HVAC systems.

In August, nearly 200 of our teachers will participate in a two-day training with Google as we strive to get all of our teachers Level One Google Educator Certification.

We also provide a two-day orientation for teachers who are new to our district to help them get acclimated before students arrive. Like the children, it is my hope that all 475 adults who work here also return having grown and explored over the summer.

Recent brain research on summer learning loss also indicates that there is an upside to rediscovering learning at the beginning of a new school year. As people recall previous learning, with new perspectives and experiences, we build more complex connections and develop an even deeper understanding.

As the 2017-2018 school year approaches, it is my hope that each member of our school community, staff and students, bring new perspectives and experiences from summer learning that they can use to build upon, form connections, and deepen their learning.

Please go out and explore with your children or friends. It is OK to get a little messy.

Send me a couple of photos of staff or student summer exploration and I’ll pick a few each week to post on our website. khawes@rsu21.net.

Kathryn Hawes is superintendent of schools for Regional School District 21.

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