The Arts Prevent Summer Learning Loss

Between undergrad and graduate studies, I took six years off to work. I’ve never forgotten going back to grad school and realizing I had to catch up with my younger classmates who had just graduated from college. I had to refresh my memory and also learn how to study again.

Something similar happens to kids during the summer. The summer slide, as it is called, refers to the phenomenon of students starting a new school year behind where they were when they finished the previous school year. This is especially evident among lower-income children who are more likely to spend their summer vacation in unstructured activities than their more affluent peers who get to take advantage of a growing number of educational resources and experiences.

This is nothing new. In fact, studies have measured summer learning loss for over a century. According to the National Summer Learning Association, most lower-income children lose two months of math skills during summer vacation and up to three months of reading skills. When school resumes in the fall, nine out of 10 teachers must spend three whole weeks re-teaching material students learned the previous year.

These learning losses have a cumulative impact. By the time they reach fifth grade, lower-income students are two to three years behind their higher-income peers. When they enter high school, over half of the achievement gap can be attributed to summer learning loss during their elementary school years.
So how can we prevent the dreaded summer slide? A solution is readily available – providing structured learning through so-called summer camps and other summer learning programs.

Just as the arts are an essential part of a child’s K-12 schooling, so are arts learning opportunities essential for the summer break. Arts learning matters every single day. It develops important skills like creative thinking, perseverance and self-discipline that help students succeed.

And among many other lessons, arts education helps children learn how to learn. Through studying the arts, children develop the attitudes and skills that can make learning anything fun and, therefore, successful.

When children can see that dedication to learning and sustained attention to a goal helps them learn to play an instrument or perfect dance moves or act in character or create a piece of art, they come to realize they can approach their school work the same way.

Students experience in very real ways the truth that practice is necessary and that it pays off if they work hard enough. They learn that they can develop their abilities and get better at things they never thought they could do. This sense of self-efficacy, knowing that they can accomplish difficult things if they put their mind to it, will carry a child through school and through life. They develop the growth mindset that will set them up for success in school, on the job and in life.

Any subject or problem is more fun – and thereby more engaging – when you see yourself making progress and capable of continued progress. Short term, high-quality arts camps and programs are an excellent way for children to discover how to learn and have fun doing it. Not just in the summer, but all year long.

Camp Encore, presented by the Cathedral Arts Project, offers 6- to 11-year-olds the opportunity to discover new passions and grow their creativity. Campers of all experience levels will enjoy one-of-a-kind instruction in dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts, led by qualified teaching artists. CLICK HERE for more information or email