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Tips on Improving Student Learning at Home & Portable Air Conditioners
Since the recession began we've been hearing about budget cuts. This year not much has changed. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "elementary and high schools are receiving less state funding in the 2012-13 school year than last year in 26 states, and in 35 states school funding now stands below 2008 levels." State cuts disproportionately affect school districts with high concentrations of children in poverty, a factor that has become more widespread since the recession hit.
With the loss of school funding, came the loss of special programs like advanced placement courses, extracurricular activities, and special academic programs for science, foreign language, technology and art. Not only are teachers out of work, but those that are employed are faced with finding ways to teach students on a tighter budget. Their jobs are contingent upon state testing scores, but they lack the funding to garner positive results.
To keep student learning on an upswing it's imperative that parents do their part. Most families, especially low income families, find this hard to do. But if new and upcoming students are to obtain a proper education and contribute to the growth of the economy, it's important to find ways to help.
Summer's approaching and with that comes the end of the school year. Summerlearning.org reports that "Two-thirds of the ninth grade achievement gap can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during the elementary school years."
So what do we do to keep our kids active and promote learning at the same time? Below are 5 ways to improve student learning at home and how a portable air conditioner can help.
Reading and Comprehension
One of the most important skills a child can learn is reading and comprehension. To encourage students to continue to build skills over the summer, join programs like the one offered by Scholastic. Take the 2013 Scholastic Summer Challenge. Reading and comprehension is the basis of cognitive growth and development, and increases mental cognitive retention, critical thinking, problem solving skills, and an acute awareness that has been often referred to as "reflective thinking."
It's estimated that learning and reading skill loss during summer months are cumulative. By the time a student reaches middle school, the reading loss can be as much as two years. This accounts for the 85% achievement gap between lower income and middle income students.
The best way to prevent this is to visit your local library and keep your children actively engaged. Many libraries offer summer reading programs. Books are free and so are the community services provided by your local city.
Learning outside the classroom begins with visits to science-rich cultural institutions like zoos, aquariums, science centers and natural history museums. But there are a host of other opportunities, too. Astronomy clubs and science competitions are great way to promote home study and online research. Encourage your high school student to join the NASA FIRST Robotics Competition that immerses students into the world of engineering. Collaborating with businesses, universities, and research institutions, the students get a hands-on look inside the engineering profession.
Take a walk in the woods, collect rocks, watch "MythBusters" on TV and use the internet to learn about cancer and global warming. These are great ways to get started. For years science has been learned through TV. Mr. Wizard circa 1951, The World of Jacques Cousteau 1966, Bill Nye the Science Guy 1993, MythBusters 2003, and Sid the Science Kid 2008, have all been accessible tools to keep children consistently connected. Today, you can go online and watch astrophysicist's Neil Degrasse Tyson's internet show "Star Talk" for some fun and revealing information.
Even President Barack Obama promotes scientific education in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The White House hosts STEM focused student science competitions and encourages those interested in science to participate. In 2009, the President hosted Astronomy Night out on the White House lawn.
If science clubs have been cut at your school, home based activities are a great way to incorporate science into your child's learning.
The Web has become a fascinating place to learn a multitude of things. You can research just about anything on the Web, so why not learn a foreign language. On BBC.com, there are a variety of language options, videos, courses, and audio that teach vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar through activities and tests. There are apps for your smart phone like pocket languages. There are also video game apps that teach kids languages such as Little Pim, and computer software like Rosetta Stone.
A study by Connecticut State University indicates that those that know a second language do better in literacy, math, social studies, and on standardized testing overall. Similar comparative studies also show that those who learn a second language outperform those who don't. And for students from low income areas, knowing a second language helps close the achievement gap, making it possible for them to succeed in school where they might otherwise fail.
So if your child's school doesn't offer foreign language anymore, then check out other resources and help your child get ahead in spite of the cutbacks.
With all the talk about science and technology, society has a tendency to forget about the important role art plays in a child's development. Practicing art increases motor skills, inventiveness, decision making, visual learning, and cultural awareness. Today, kids learn more from graphic sources than they ever have in the past. Through art, kids discover ways to express themselves, create new ideas using the imagination, and interpret meaning using visual information. Some of the greatest architects started out as artists.
Learning about and understanding art as a form helps to develop an understanding of the world and how we live in it. The video game Minecraft allows the player to build communities with building blocks. The game is artistic and at the same time teaches children about community and project development.
Because of the need for new technology to aid in planet growth and change, art has taken a back seat to math, science, and technology. Even the President's STEM program is designed to help promote innovative thinking, but did you know that some of the best innovators were actually artists? Leonardo DaVinci was an astronomer, inventor, engineer, mathematician, and architect. There are hundreds of drawings to illustrate the first real theories of flight, all designed by DaVinci. To experience well-rounded growth, we need scientists and artists.
- It's vital that student's stay engaged over the course of summer. Other ways to help include:
- Join an online community to keep them connected to a learning circle
- Let them use apps and other gaming devices as a learning tool
- Visit local libraries, museums, zoos, and other public arenas that promote learning
- Keep them cool and comfortable with a portable air conditioner
- Encourage breaks with physical activity like swimming, tag or tennis