Smart Summer Camps and Programs
By Jane Whiting
Summer’s here and the living is easy. True! But over the long break, young,
active and inquisitive minds still need to be stimulated and this time is a
great opportunity to brush up on academic skills, and even get a jump start
on back-to-school learning, in a fun and enjoyable way.
Many educators believe that kids suffer from “summer learning loss,” where
their academic memories switch off for a couple of months, and by
September they have forgotten a significant amount of learning from the
previous school year. According to a tutoring expert, studies show that “kids
lose an average of over two-and-a-half months worth of math skills . . . and
an average of one month of learning in other subjects during the summer.”
But few children will want to “study or work” at home during July and
August. So, the answer for many parents is a week or two at a full or half-
day camp where activities are designed to help kids stay mentally sharp and
retain or improve their knowledge in various areas. Chances are, they may
not even think of it as “doing school stuff ” because they are having a good
time in a positive, hands-on environment and having fun with other kids.
Just a quick look at the summer camp guide in Capital Parent will give
parents lots of ideas on how to engage their child’s intellectual and creative
interest. To work on specific academic skills such as math and language arts
with experienced teachers, check out schools and learning centres in the
community that are offering summer programs. As an example, the Ottawa
Carleton District School Board is delivering a variety of learning programs
for JK to grade 8, including many international languages and opportunities
for French immersion students to work on their proficiency.
To enrich science and technology skills, look at the range of creative
museum programs that incorporate lots of exciting lab experiments, and a
variety of innovative camps across the city that focus on robotics, computer
animation, web design, video game programming and more. Some of these
offer a bilingual environment, so kids can work on their second-language
too. If learning a new language or improving a current one is a priority, there
are English and French language camps that cater to more than 20 different
nationalities, as well as specialized camps that teach children everything
from Chinese to Arabic and Greek through song and dance, arts and crafts.
Choosing a music camp is another way of improving a student’s academic
performance. Whether it’s piano lessons, strings, woodwinds or rock-style
guitar and drums, it has been proven that learning music not only has
educational benefits, but musical students often exhibit better behaviour and
attitude at school. Likewise, speech and drama training can make kids more
confident at school as they are more able to verbally express themselves.
Artistic activities like painting, drawing, pottery and puppetry will also
increase concentration and improve fine motor skills.
In response to recent claims that students are not learning enough about
Canadian history in school, and to enrich their sense of Canadian culture and
heritage, parents should consider the wide selection of day camps available
at the local national museums that bring history, nature, agriculture and
civilization to life in an interactive and informative style. In addition, they
should investigate programs at the 10 community sites of the Ottawa
Museum Network. Here, families and kids can explore pioneer life in their
own backyard and take part in fun-filled activities and camps that include
digging in dirt to find bugs and archaeological treasures at Billings Estate,
plus hunting down spies at the historical Diefenbunker site.
For more details on educational or smart activities and programs, check out
Capital Parent’s Summer Fun and Camp Guide. Contact individual camps,
or go online to their websites, for further information.
This article originally appeared in the July 2009 issue of Capital Parent Newspaper