Summer Vacation: New Experiences for the "School of Fun Learning"

By Mona Hamed June 27, 2024 139

Summer vacation represents months of play, exploration, and relaxation for children and youth. They eagerly await it with joy, away from the daily routine of formal schooling, which has become, in most of our Arab countries, a psychological burden they traditionally seek to escape through outings, relaxing on beaches, or traveling to famous tourist destinations. However, most of these activities only provide entertainment without contributing significantly to their psychological and cognitive development.

This means that summer months should be a beneficial break for children and youth, which new experimental approaches seek to surpass through what can be termed as " School of Fun Learning ". This approach links recreational activities with goals of psychological and cognitive development, something that should ideally also be the path of learning during the academic year, if not for the bitter reality of our schools.

In response to this, there is a growing trend among parents towards alternative educational paths such as parallel or homeschooling, as alternatives to the traditional study-vacation dichotomy in the minds of children and youth. This is because the process of learning and recreation are two inseparable aspects.

However, generalizing this path does not seem realistic for all environments and social conditions, as some countries prohibit alternative education paths, while increasing social and economic pressures add additional burdens to both spouses in earning a living, making it extremely difficult for one of them to devote time to an alternative educational path.

In light of this, attempting to achieve maximum utilization of the summer vacation period may be the realistic scenario for most Arab families, through adopting new and exciting experiences aimed at teaching children and youth skills and values through activities dominated by entertainment and enjoyment.

Activities such as cooking, mastering a foreign language, painting, and other skills can be part of recreational and playful activities without being seen as part of a curriculum, allowing children and youth to learn spontaneously without pressure or formality. This not only benefits their personal growth but also provides future career opportunities for young people and helps expand their social network.

For instance, difficult science experiments can be turned into activities resembling captivating adventures, eagerly awaited for their results and accompanied by rewards. This approach endears participants to experimental sciences.

A study conducted on 25 scientific experiments, reported by the site "Little Bins for Little Hands," indicates that the summer vacation instilled a passion for science in children, especially those who were not familiar with science at home or school. Simple experiments, such as creating a homemade sundial, making fizzy sidewalk paint, forming an explosive watermelon volcano, and making glowing bubble soap, turned science experiments into exciting adventures. This approach perfectly suits the psychology of children and youth.

What if these children made a super soda-vinegar rocket, DIY kites, a rainbow in a cup, secret messages with invisible ink, or a homemade solar cooking system? A study conducted on 14 summer science experiments, reported by the site "Science Alcove," indicates positive results in motivating children to enjoy learning during the vacation period.

As for the youth, the summer vacation is a golden period for early professional qualification, which saves them much time in learning job skills for the future labor market. It also reduces the likelihood of their involvement in violence or crime, according to a research paper published in the "Journal of Public Economics."

By conducting a random draw for 12,000 high school students in Chicago to obtain paid summer job opportunities, and a similar draw for 6,000 students in Philadelphia, the study monitored the results of participants in terms of involvement in criminal justice, social services, behavioral health, educational performance, and civic engagement. It found that participation in summer employment programs reduced the likelihood of participants having a criminal record within 13 months by 3.4 percentage points (28%) in Chicago and 3.2 percentage points (18%) in Philadelphia.

This means that we are investing in protecting our youth through recreational learning during the summer vacation, along with other benefits, such as boosting their self-confidence, improving their time management skills, and providing an opportunity to build their social and professional networks.

Another significant benefit is the documented experience in their resumes, as well as discovering potential career fields in which they might excel from an early age.

This seems to clash with a culture ingrained through the media in the Arab world, which suggests that engaging students in professional activities at a young age violates their childhood. However, this notion is not supported by studies conducted by Western universities. Moreover, the proposed model for benefiting from the summer vacation is based on voluntarily training youth with a symbolic wage, using methods that are more enjoyable and entertaining.

We need to think outside the box of prevailing media curricula. Summer employment programs for youth might be an effective solution to future unemployment issues among them, according to the results of 13 studies on such programs in four major U.S. cities: Boston, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia, as reported by "J-PAL North America."

If educating children through such programs protects them from engaging in violence and crime in their youth, and educating youth through them prepares them professionally and boosts their self-confidence, then it is not an exaggeration to describe the path of recreational learning during the summer vacation as a matter of national and Arab security.

By spending the summer vacation participating in sports activities such as cycling, swimming, or adventure sports like climbing and water skiing, combined with elements of spontaneous learning, children and youth not only gain enjoyable and exciting experiences but also enhance their physical fitness and overall health.

Furthermore, involving children and youth in local volunteer work, such as in care homes or with non-profit organizations, can offer an opportunity for them to contribute to improving their local environment and strengthening their social bonds, as well as developing their personal hobbies.

The summer vacation is a special time of the year, offering us the chance to enjoy life and revitalize. Instead of spending it traditionally, we can explore new experiences that help our children and youth grow and make the most of their skills and potential.

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