By Lina Younes
Summer is nearly here. Children are getting out of school. They are very happy to get away from tests, papers, and other school related tasks. However, we often see that over the summer months many students, especially in the lower grades, lose many of their academic skills during the extended time that they are away from school. So as parents, what are we to do?
Increasingly, there are many programs to encourage children to keep reading during the summer and camps to teach children special skills. Online you can also find a wealth of information, educational websites and games. However, there is another educational activity that might not readily come to mind, but is equally beneficial to a child’s well-being and learning experience. How about getting active and exploring the great outdoors? As children start exploring nature and outdoors activities, they awaken their innate curiosity and develop an interest in their surroundings and even in science. Those lessons stay with them throughout their life and may even lead to an interest in protecting the environment and pursing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers.
Just recently, as we were developing a Spanish webpage to highlight the contributions of Hispanic women scientists at EPA during Women in Science and Technology Month now in June, there was one thing that immediately stood out. Regardless of their background, these remarkable women all shared a love for the outdoors. They all described how as children they would explore nature and how they loved playing outside with their friends.
So, this summer, why don’t we take advantage of the opportunity now that we have more free time with our children to address the so called “nature deficit disorder” and pursue outdoor activities? I know we might hear some initial grumblings from our kids who may protest getting disconnected from all their electronic gadgets, but you’ll soon see how they embrace playing outside. Of course, we don’t all have a beautiful national park in our backyard, but I’m sure that there may be some hidden treasures in your local neighborhood that you can explore with your kids.
Any big plans for this summer? As always, we will love to hear from you.