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Here's how Arkansas students can avoid 'brain drain' over summer break

It's a time for relaxation after a long year— but kids tend to lose some of what they learned over the break. Here's how to prevent a summer slide from happening.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — For most Arkansas students, summer break is either fast approaching or already underway. While the extended break is a time to relax after a long year, experts believe that students tend to lose some of what they learned.

As the saying goes, ‘If you don't use it, you lose it'— and as the school year wraps up, brain drain is something educators are worried about and want to get ahead of.

With summer vacation on the horizon and a long school year in the rearview, students may leave their typical everyday learning behind, which can lead to a summer brain drain.

Pine Forest Elementary Principal Yolanda Thomas said that keeping the mind working can make all the difference in preventing a summer slide.

“I would define that as a learning loss during the summer,” Thomas said. “We're on vacation, so as a result of that, we kind of take a break."

According to the Public School Review, over the course of summer break, students lose between 2 to 2 ½ of math skills and see significant setbacks in their reading ability from the previous year's coursework.

"While we are on break, the brain needs to be active," Thomas explained.

Summer vacation is a bigger concern to educators since it's longer than Christmas or Spring Break. With 10 to 12 weeks off from school, it's important to keep students' brains engaged. 

Educators want to remind parents, engagement doesn't need to be rigorous.

"Museums, maybe going on some more family field trips, going to the mountains or out to the lakes and rivers,” Thomas suggested. “Although they're fun, they could be learning activities as well."

The Public School Review called Thomas’ suggestion an opportunity to take advantage of teachable moments—  meaning learning doesn't have to be forced and can even be fun.

You can also help prevent brain by using technology to facilitate learning with apps or digital learning programs. Another option is doing things old school.

"Families can use flashcards, they could even be homemade flashcards,” Thomas said. “I would also encourage workbooks."

Vacations are built into students’ and teachers’ schedules to allow time to recharge, which is why Principal Thomas said that finding a balance between taking a break and avoiding brain drain is important.

"I would limit the work with usage to maybe one page a day,” Thomas suggested. “Again, we are on break."

If children participate in meaningful learning over the course of their various vacations, brain drain and the summer slide can be eliminated. 

Thomas reassured students that when they come back from summer vacation, their teachers will have them covered.

“We know it's important that right out of the gate teachers are making sure that the learning is fun and engaging,” Thomas said. “That way we still have their attention as far as the students are concerned.”

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