Summertime is a wonderful time for children to recharge and relax after a long school year. Unfortunately, it is also a time when many of the skills they’ve gained throughout the year are lost, causing “Summer Slide.” According to the Brookings Institute, Summer Slide means that students will begin the academic year at a lower level than they were when summer began. Skills like reading and math will decrease when they are not reinforced over the summer months. While the downtime is also restorative and important, making sure that your child gets off to a great start in the fall is, too.
What are some of your most memorable learning experiences growing up? A field trip to the zoo? Dissecting a frog? Getting messy during a big art project? My guess is most of the things that made an impact on you as a child, or teenager, did not involve sitting at your desk or in front of a computer.
One of the most wonderful things about art is the amount of freedom it provides. We can make art out of almost any material and about any subject matter. It is an excellent means of self-expression as well as self-exploration. One of my favorite moments in the artroom is when a student has an a-ha moment and is surprised by how well their piece has turned out or thrilled at the mastery of a new technique. They do not always know how talented they are and art teaches them what they are capable of.
Personally, I started to identify myself as “an artist” very early in life. I loved to make things and working with my hands. In elementary school, I used to go into my backyard and dig clay out of the ground. I sculpted it into small bird’s heads and used pebbles for the eyes. I would bake them on the driveway until they hardened in the sun. This was perfectly normal to me, because I was “an artist”. I looked for any excuse to make things and loved sharing what I had made with others. My parents were the recipients of countless creations over the years as I explored various artistic avenues.
Teachers love to learn, and opportunities for faculty professional development are widely available. For schools, an investment in faculty development pays great dividends because teachers bring their experiences into the classroom on a daily basis. Conferences, online courses, and ongoing training will all deepen a teacher's practice. These opportunities will also affect students by modeling lifelong learning, curiosity, and minds open to challenge. In addition to these options, my school has implemented a very successful program that awards a faculty travel grant each year. Giving a teacher grant money specifically for designated for travel is an excellent way to enhance a teacher's professional development, and to broaden student learning in the classroom.
Thanksgiving is a time when many of us gather together with our families and friends. If we are fortunate, it is a day that revolves around cooking and eating much food with our family and friends, and probably watching several football games - perhaps even playing in a game of family football after dinner. It is a special time in part because we gather together, but also because we pause to give thanks. Of course if makes more sense to show gratitude on a regular basis, throughout the year, rather than concentrating it all on Thanksgiving.
The year was 1980. I was in fifth grade and recall one of my experiences as a happy Girl Scout. It was a Presidential election year, and as Girl Scouts, we were learning about the process of running for office. It was the Jimmy Carter versus Ronald Reagan election. As an assignment, we were each given a candidate to represent and convince others that our candidate was a worthy choice to be our president. I was given the Independent party candidate, John Anderson. I knew nothing about this person and took the challenge on of finding out all I could about him. Even though I knew Anderson probably would never win, I went into the assignment with respect for this person, for the office, and for President Carter and Ronald Reagan. What a different time it was than where we seem to be now.