Summer learning keeps young minds active, improves resiliency

  • Published
  • By Lori A. Bultman
  • 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

When summer break arrived, most students were relieved to depart from their daily, virtual learning routine, but keeping young minds active, while also enjoying a leisurely break, could be key to future academic success.

“It is important for students to continue to read and learn during the summer because it helps to reinforce and enrich their previously learned academic content,” said Vanessa Kennedy, a fourth-grade teacher at Fort Sam Houston Elementary.

Continuing to progress academically during the summer can also build a child’s curiosity.

“I think reading during the summer is incredibly important,” said Mason Nichols, a third-grade teacher at Fort Sam Houston Elementary. “My goal with students is that they build a growth mindset and seek out knowledge. When they have that inner question or spark of curiosity, it challenges them to seek out the answer and information.

After the first few weeks out of their school routine, it may be difficult to motivate children to ‘study.’

“In a typical summer, we know it is challenging to keep the learning moving at the same pace as the school year,” said Sarah Worden, librarian at Fort Sam Houston Elementary. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, this difficulty is potentially magnified over a longer period of time.”

While it may take time out of each day, Worden encourages parents to continue participating in their child’s academic growth.

“I know parents are doing a wonderful job in their new role as teachers,” she said. “We saw this every day in the spring, from pictures on social media to assignments turned in to video conferencing sessions with teachers, and more.”

Maintaining the routine of educating children is important, and it can also improve parent/child relationships.

“Continuing to be actively involved in their students’ educational experiences can help to develop closer relationships because parents are made more acutely aware of their child’s learning preferences and needs,” Kennedy said.

“Parents can help their children to continue learning by encouraging them to spend time every day reinforcing the skills they have already learned,” she said. “For example, a student could spend 30 minutes on math skills, and 30 minutes on reading and writing skills. Then, the rest of the day could be spent on other activities.”

Kennedy reminds parents that not all learning has to come from structured lessons.

“Recreational activities enable them to practice learning social and emotional skills,” she said. “Household chores can include cooking, practicing measurement skills; shopping, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division skills; and projects, science and math skills.”

“Traveling opportunities can incorporate social studies and math skills, learning facts about different places, time periods, time – hours and minutes, miles, and so on,” she said.

Nichols also encourages parents to have students assist when traveling.

“When driving, having students help navigate and read the road signs helps to build on reading a map,” he said. 

In addition, there are a vast number of resources to assist parents in keeping their child’s mind active this summer, even if only for a few minutes each day.

“During our recent COVID-19 pandemic experience, I know parents found many online resources to assist their children’s learning skills,” Kennedy said, reminding parents most of those resources are still available. “Fort Sam Houston ISD has generously provided our students with many learning apps that help to enhance their academic journeys.”

There are also many online programs offering free trials and sessions due to the pandemic Nichols said, adding that if a parent is opting for less digital learning, many libraries in the local communities are offering reading programs and incentives for students.

“One of the most critical activities parents can engage in with their children is reading together,” Worden said. “Take turns reading to and listening to your child because the long-term benefits are immeasurable.”

Even during the pandemic, library resources are still available locally.

“Our students actually have access to three community libraries,” Worden said. “The JBSA Keith A. Campbell Memorial Library has a summer reading program. The San Antonio Public Library also has great resources, and a little-known virtual library in San Antonio is the Bexar Bibliotech (”

“I strongly encourage families to check out these three libraries and find resources to meet the needs of even the youngest children in the home,” Worden said.

There are also resources available to help parents navigate the ongoing uncertainty and the disruptions in their children’s routine due to current events.

“I want to acknowledge the role of emotional resiliency in raising a child, especially in this challenging time of the pandemic,” said Worden. She recommends parents visit for resources to help build and sustain resiliency, which is essential to overall wellbeing.

“One of the best things a parent can do during this time is to encourage their child,” Nichols said. “Having to utilize distance learning is something most of us have not experienced before. For some students, it may have been an anxious time, so I would encourage parents to encourage children about the upcoming school year and remind them that we will do the best we can to help them have an awesome year.”