Friday, July 8, 2011

Lightning Bugs and Learning Loss

Photuris lucicrescens

By Bruce Marlin [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

I have been reading a great deal about the “learning loss” that occurs over the summer break? I completely agree with this idea that students suffer great loss over the summer months. However, I am a huge fan of it as well. The learning loss that happens over the summer is the best kind. Students forget not only how to take standardized tests but also how to adhere to a rigid curriculum that dictates what, when, and how they learn.  They forget filtered learning and the restrictions of a traditional school day complete with scheduled breaks and feeding times.

Yes, students are not learning from the common core over the summer…or at least not in the way we want them to. However, they are still learning a great deal. For example, the other night I was out back with by two sons catching lightning bugs. When we were done my boys had all sorts of questions about how and why those little rear ends lit up. We then spent time doing research online to answer all their questions. Or how about the time when we went to our local zoo and listened to the zoo keeper talk at length about the life and habits of our local Bald Eagle residents? This again prompted follow up and some bird watching via a live web cam. This is spontaneous learning in the purest sense of the word.

In addition, what about those “non-essential” skills learned through those summer months? Think about the team work and social skills being taught on baseball diamonds and soccer fields all across the country? What about students learning responsibility and hard work through summer jobs? What about the time to work on physical health through the various sports and outdoor activities? How about all that free time to read books of their choice? What about all the day trips and vacations to different places complete with different cultures and opportunities for learning? How about the occasional television show on PBS kids or History Channel that reinforces a learning concept or exposes a new interest? As a former Boy Scout, I could not imagine never having learned to whittle with a knife, start a fire with flint, learn emergency first aid or shoot a gun. All of which are not allowed in schools.

No, I don’t think the learning loss that occurs during summer is a problem. I would rather spend my time worrying about fun, creative, and freedom losses that happen during the school year. How can we infuse the freedom and fun learning that takes place during summer into the school year? How can we ensure that creativity is alive and encouraged in our classrooms? I would rather take time to learn about lightning bugs than prep my kids for the next standardized test.