June 1, 2011 2:19:00 PM
Summer is here. Yes, the official first day of summer isn''t until June 21, but school is out, and the kids are home.
Inevitably, some of our kids will experience a slide -- and we''re not talking about the Slip ''n'' Dip.
Educators bemoan the "summer slide." Inevitably, kids who have an extended summer break will un-learn some of the things they''re learned during the past school year.
We''re not talking about some kids here -- we''re talking about every kid. "All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer," according to a 1996 study from Johns Hopkins University''s Center for Summer Learning. "Research shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of summer vacation."
Johns Hopkins researchers found that kids lose about 2-1/2 worth of math skills during the summer. "Studies reveal that the greatest areas of summer loss for all students, regardless of socio-economic status, are in factual or procedural knowledge," the study said.
Sorry if we''re raining on a perfectly sunny summer day. But it''s important for parents and relatives to pick up in the summer where teachers have left off. And, it doesn''t have to be boring.
For starters, read to your elementary-age children, and have them read to you. This simple act sharpens your child''s reading skills, instills a love of reading and learning, and gives you quality time with your child you''ll be glad you spent.
Keep their math skills sharp with worksheets or flash cards. Bring up math questions during conversation -- ask them to make change for you in their heads while you''re shopping at the store, or how many pounds of tomatoes can you buy for $5.
But more importantly, open their minds to new experiences. Use the summer to explore.
Last year, we published a list of "101 Things to Do" in north Mississippi and Alabama. All were within a days'' drive. Some might be as close as across the street.
We''d like suggest a few from the list:
· Window to the past: See an example of Tiffany stained glass at St. Paul''s Episcopal Church in Columbus.
· West Point window shopping: Beautifully maintained storefronts house a first-rate kitchenware shop, a gun shop, an old-time hardware store and more. Downtown West Point.
· Play date: Picnic and spend an afternoon with the kids at Lee Park''s maze-like playground.
· Strollin'' along the river: Enjoy the natural beauty surrounding the Columbus Riverwalk. Main Street at the foot of River Hill.
· Cool fun in the summertime: Have wet fun at Dewayne Hayes Recreation Center''s spray park, 7934 Barton Ferry Road, Columbus.
· Water music: On Thursday evenings in the summer go the Riverwalk for Sounds of Summer, an outdoor showcase for local music talent. Columbus, 662-329-1191.
· Fun on the Waterway: Go wakeboarding or boating at the Columbus Marina, 295 Marina Drive, or continue on to the Stennis Lock and Dam to relax, picnic, walk or wet a hook.
· Fresh veggies: Visit the Starkville or Columbus Farmer''s Markets on Saturday mornings.
· Let''s get lost: Explore the small towns of the Prairie, Artesia, Crawford and Brooksville, where one should not miss the Ole Country Bakery.
· Explore west Alabama: Cruise the small towns of this area, each with its own charm: Millport, Vernon, Sulligent and Hamilton. Careful, don''t get lost in Hightogy.
· Sunrise stroll: Take a sunrise walk in downtown Aberdeen as the early morning light illuminates the old churches, Victorian homes and beautiful old trees.
· Gators and more: If it''s a walk in the woods you''re looking for, try the 48,000-acre Noxubee Wildlife Refuge. The visitor center is located at the edge of Bluff Lake northwest of Brooksville, south of Starkville.
· Explore The Dismals: This pristine wilderness area offers romantic cabins, secluded campsites, hiking, waterfalls and a country store, 12 miles south of Russellville, Ala.
· Tracing history and nature: Take a drive down (or up) the Natchez Trace, the national park that stretches from Natchez to Nashville.
· Hound dog homeplace: Visit Elvis Presley''s birthplace and first home in Tupelo. Go downtown to Tupelo Hardware to see where Miss Gladys bought her boy his first guitar.
· Hand-painted horses: The city of Meridian has restored its 100-plus-year-old Dentzel Carousel to its original splendor. The merry-go-round has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
· Lost realm of the Black Warrior: Explore Moundville Archaeological Park, about 12 miles southeast of Tuscaloosa. The Jones Museum showcases 200 stunning artifacts to describe one of the most significant Native American archaeological sites in the United States.
· Back to nature: Visit MUW''s Plymouth Bluff Center for information on the earliest days of Columbus, hiking trails and displays highlighting flora and fauna of the area.
· German POWs : Aliceville, Ala., doesn''t seem like a likely place for a World War II prisoner of war camp for German prisoners, but it was. Learn more at the Aliceville POW Museum and Cultural Center, 104 Broad St. N.E.
· A museum for children: Visit the Children''s Hands-On Museum in Tuscaloosa, Ala., 2213 University Blvd.
· Blues tour: Celebrate the rich history of Blues in the area with stops along the Mississippi Blues Trail, including the following markers: Aberdeen Mississippi Blues in Aberdeen, Big Joe Williams in Crawford, Black Prairie Blues in Macon, Columbus Mississippi Blues in Columbus, Elvis Presley in Tupelo, Howlin'' Wolf in West Point and Shake rag in Tupelo.
· White-water thrills: Go kayaking or canoeing on Bear Creek in Alabama. Bear Creek Canoe Run, on U.S. Highway 43, Hackleburg, Ala.
· A house party like no other: Visit the Neshoba County Fair, a Mississippi tradition that includes political speechmaking, front porch visiting and old-time fun. Held in late July, early August in Philadelphia. While in town visit Williams Brothers Store, a thriving old-time general store.
· Civil War History: Learn about the Battle of Shiloh at the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, 501 W. Linden St.
· Healthy kids: Teach kids healthy habits -- and have fun at the same time -- at the HealthWorks! Museum in Tupelo.
· Southern lit: Sip lemonade and read a William Faulkner novel on the balcony at Square Books, overlooking the Square in Oxford.
· All aboard: The city of Amory celebrates its history at as an important railroad hub, complete with a rail car exhibit, at the Amory Regional Museum, 801 Third Street South.
· Birmingham museums: You have three to choose from: The Civil Rights Institute, The McWane Science Institute (for children) and the Birmingham Museum of Art.
Here are just a few ideas to get your juices flowing. There''s plenty to see and do, within a day''s drive, to expand your horizons.
Whether or not you have school-age children, resolve this summer to get out and see what''s out there, both near and far. An education awaits all of us, just outside our door.