Around the World, Throughout the Year

Summer can be a time for relaxation and play, when many young people have opportunities to travel, spend time with their families and in their communities, and attend summer camps. But for children who do not have access to educational activities, summer can be a time of setback—academically and physically. The “summer slide” is not a myth. According to the National Summer Learning Association, research spanning 100 years shows that all students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer (White, 1906; Entwisle & Alexander, 1992; Cooper et al., 1996; Downey et al., 2004).

It’s high time to take advantage of summer time—especially to provide youth with educational experiences that will complement the school year and enhance their global learning. Summer is an ideal time for immersive experiences with world languages and travel, but any summer program can offer extended investigations of places, people, and global issues. In the summer, you are bounded only by the interests of young people, not by time or testing constraints.

For SUCCESS—whether you are running your own summer program or looking for a strong program for your school or child—consider these seven strategies from the National Summer Learning Association:

  • Set goals
  • Understand what youth and families want
  • Create intentional learning experiences
  • Communicate expectations to staff
  • Engage kids with creative approaches
  • Structure time efficiently
  • Seek partnerships

According to Erin Ulery, who works on Member Services and Program Quality at the National Summer Learning Association, summer programs sometimes struggle with creating intentional learning experiences. Programs often excel at providing interesting activities to keep kids active and engaged over the summer, but they may find it difficult to plan with a specific learning goal in mind. A focus on global learning objectives, however, can provide guidance on the types of skills and behaviors programs want to achieve during the summer – and an almost unlimited number of fun and interesting ways to go about it.

“Global literacy, when used the right way, creates students that think beyond the school year, beyond the summer, and beyond themselves,” says Ulery.

One area where summer programs shine is community involvement. Successful summer programs leverage community partnerships for field trips, guest speakers, and community action projects. A global focus can reinvigorate existing partnerships in different ways or lead you to create new relationships. From local museums and libraries to community experts and family members who have traveled or have familiarity with other cultures, partnerships can help make any kind of global curriculum successful.

To create successful partnerships, summer programs build them early. Effective summer programs start planning at least six months in advance. They use the fall to collect information from the previous summer, including staff debriefing sessions and parent/youth feedback surveys. Based on this information, they make a plan that identifies areas to improve and enhance—including partnerships as well as funding, staffing, and outreach.

To get started planning your global summer program, visit the National Summer Learning Association website for more information on the importance of summer learning.

[1]Alexander, K., Entwisle,D., and Olson, L. (2007). Lasting consequences of the summer learning gap. American Sociological Review, 72, 167-180.

Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., & Greathouse, S. (1996). The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 66, 227-268.

Downey, D, von Hippel, P., and Broh, B. (2004). Are schools the great equalizer? Cognitive inequality during the summer months and the school year. American Sociological Review, 69, 613-635.

Duffett, A., Johnson, J., Farkas, S., King, S., & Ott, A. (2004). All work and no play: Listening to what kids and parents really want from out-of-school time. Washington, DC: Public Agenda.