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Friday, July 1, 2022

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Steam-y Summer

You don’t need to be a scientist to know that Summer Learning Loss or “Summer Brain Drain” is a real thing. You just need to have been a kid in school at one time in your life.

Do you remember heading off on summer break when you were a kid, and then coming back to school in the fall? Your teacher had to spend the first few weeks going over all that stuff that the teacher swore you already learned last year. Your teacher was probably right. Scientists have found that the “brain drain” you remember from your childhood can actually be huge, with some kids losing two to three months’ worth of skills during their summer downtime. And that research, from the National Summer Learning Association, shows those years of sliding behind each summer can dramatically add up. The potential is there for kids to slip way behind over the years.

OK – you’re with me. You want to try to prevent this with your kids. What can you do? It’s time for a STEAM-y summer! There’s a good chance you’ve heard of STEM. That’s science, technology, engineering, and math. At MOSI, we add an “A” for arts – more and more research is showing that kids who are exposed to the arts do better in their academic work. Adding that “A” makes STEM into STEAM.

This summer, it’s time to work STEAM ideas into your everyday life! Here are ways to make it happen from our expert MOSI educators:

Get your kids games and toys that use their brains.
To help occupy their time over the summer break, toss your kids a Rubik’s Cube or a wooden brain-teaser puzzle. Toys and games that emphasize choices and consequences can sharpen vital decision-making skills: aim for board games like Risk and Clue over ones like Sorry and Monopoly that mostly rely on luck. And if they’re into video games, nudge your kids to put down the blaster gun and dive into games that use logic and creativity. At MOSI, we teach entire classes using the game Minecraft as a creative tool.

Point out artistic decisions all around you. At MOSI, we find the best learning is often when kids don’t think they’re “learning.” When you’re in the car or when your kid is doing something they enjoy, talk about the artistic decisions they see. Why is this song more appealing than that one? Why do they like the art on this billboard more than another one? What is the logo for this product trying to convince you? Research shows getting kids thinking in an artistic way can have big upsides in their academic achievement.

What powers their favorite things?
Even the most introverted kids will often talk with you about the things they love to do and care the most about. Maybe it’s riding their bike; maybe it’s singing. Talk with them about what makes that work. How does turning the pedal actually make their bike go forward? What happens to air between your lungs and your lips that turns a deep breath into a musical tune? At MOSI we’ve learned a secret: It’s okay if you don’t know all the answers. Part of the magic of MOSI is learning together across generations, and you can do that at home, too. Pull out your smartphone and search together for answers to questions like what makes that bike “go” or how your vocal cords work.

STEAM is everywhere when you’re out and about.
Going to a theme park this summer? While you’re in line, talk about how the roller coaster uses the pull of gravity to make the ride more fun or more intense. At the beach? Slip into a conversation about how some things float and some things sink, depending on what they’re made of. Barbecuing? Look under the grating on that grill and talk about how it works – whether that’s sending propane up through the pipes to be lit by a spark, or how the heat from the charcoal changes when the coals are piled up or spread out.

The world around us is full of wonder and “wow,” and if you help your child look for that and love it, they’ll be learning in ways that may surprise you all summer long.

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