Summer vacation offers students a well-earned break from the academic rigors of classes, papers and tests and a chance to gain a sense of renewal through recreation, travel, and hobbies.
But summer affords many opportunities for intellectual engagement as well. From reading to writing to concerts to explorations of nature, students can find many enjoyable ways to expand their learning. Such active mental engagement keeps their intellectual gears well oiled and active, so they’re not rusty when the new school year begins in the fall.
Here are some handy tips for staying sharp this summer:
• Read for pleasure
This is the time to choose your own books to read, whether they’re detective stories or poems or science fiction. If you loved reading a book in English class last year, dive into some other books by the same author. Or pick up a biography of a figure who intrigued you in your history course.
• Get out
This is the time of year to expand your horizons. Visit an art museum, historical site or nature center. Attend an outdoor concert, theatrical production or poetry reading.
The Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, for instance, offers four evenings of music and poetry from June 20 to August 5 at the beautiful Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington.
Keep your writing skills fluid by keeping a journal, penning a poem or short story, or jotting down your reactions to experiences. Paint a picture, draw a sketch, shape a sculpture, or take some photos. Try playing a new musical instrument, dust off your old guitar, or brush up your piano skills.
• Go Native
Immerse yourself in a foreign language you’ve studied or pick up a new one. Watch TV shows, baseball games, and movies in the target language. Better yet, travel to a country, neighborhood or restaurant where the language is spoken fluently and strike up a conversation.
• Take a course
Sign up for a class in anything that appeals to you. You may want to try something completely new, refresh your knowledge in a subject you’ve already taken, or explore more deeply a topic you’ve encountered in a course.
This is the perfect time to enroll in an SAT course or complete SAT practice tests, or to brush up on math or language skills, perhaps with the help of a tutor.
Many schools and colleges offer summer courses for teenagers in a wide variety of subjects. Camp KO’s curriculum, for instance, includes classes in creative writing, creative nonfiction, real science, mock trial, robotics, coding, electronic music, improvisational theater and computer programming.
• Tips for Summer Reading, Papers and Math Packets
Reading – Wait until August to read your assigned books, so they will be fresh in your mind during your first classes. Taking notes or underlining as you read will prepare you for any quizzes, papers or discussions related to the books.
Papers – If the paper assignment is based on summer reading, use the notes or underlining you did to help write it. Start writing the paper at least a week before it’s due to minimize your stress as the first day of class approaches.
Math Packets – Complete these in small chunks over the course of several days in mid-August. That way, you’ll be in the habit of thinking about math on a daily basis when the school year begins.
• Keep Cool AND Curious
Your summer mantra: Stay relaxed, but intellectually engaged.