Our View: Academic summer camps can reinforce, enhance learning




We are all familiar with the phrase "use it or lose it." Most often it is applied to our physical condition. When muscles are not regularly tested and strengthened, they become weaker, the body less efficient. 


Here with the official start of summer just six days away, we urge parents to think of this phrase in another context. 


Studies has shown that our kids suffer learning losses if they are not engaged in educational activities. Students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of the summer than at the beginning. Math skills, in particular, seem to suffer most -- about two months of grade-level equivalency according to a 1996 study. 


Until recent years, most summer camps were built around fun activities and sports. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. Kids need to be active throughout the year, and summer break affords them opportunities to spend more time on non-academic interests such as arts, sports and hobbies. 


But of late, there has been a very positive trend in camps. There are more and more summer camps geared toward learning. In the Golden Triangle, our colleges give area kids a far greater range of these opportunities than might be otherwise available. 


East Mississippi Community College offers a coding camp and a PC Repair Camp. The school also provides what it calls Camp Amp, where students in grades 7-12 are exposed to local industries and the kinds of jobs they offer. It's an excellent way to apply what they have learned in the classroom to the real-life work environment. 


Among others, MUW offers a summer camp for gifted students, again building on what students have learned. Consider it the opposite of apathy. It's a boot camp for the brain. 


Mississippi State offers a wide variety of academic camps, everything from accounting to horticulture and landscaping to rural medicine and science to retail entrepreneurship. 


While the offers are many, sometimes the opportunities are limited. 


For students of low-income families, these camps may not be affordable. That is particularly unfortunate because studies show that more than half of the achievement gap between lower and higher income students can be attributed to unequal access to these summer educational programs. 


For many, the Boys & Girls Club of the Golden Triangle is an affordable option. The clubs in Columbus, Starkville and -- for the first time -- West Point engage kids in a wide variety of educational programs. 


We should maximize the benefit of all these camps and one way to do that is to provide scholarships for students to attend these camps. We encourage you to get in touch with camp directors to learn how to sponsor a child. 


Building healthy minds, as it is with building healthy bodies, should be a year-round endeavor. 


Let's help our students use their learning instead of lose it.



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