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Keep students learning during the summer

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Superintendent Vincent Matthews, seen here at Herbert Hoover Middle School earlier this month, encourages parents of SFUSD students to help their kids continue learning during the summer break. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

This is the first week of summer for our San Francisco public school students. But it doesn’t mean the learning stops. In fact, it’s crucial that children keep learning throughout the summer months.

Because, if they don’t, they have a hard time getting back up to speed in the fall. In fact, most children even lose some of the skills they spent all year developing if they go a couple months without practicing them (this is called summer learning loss).

Good practice

I’m a basketball fan as well as an educator. I love watching the Warriors. We know that each and every one of those players’ no-look passes and three-pointers didn’t just magically happen at gametime. Teams practice, drill, play a game … and then practice more.

It’s the same for math, English and pretty much everything else. And the good news is, kids are natural learners. So, even though our children are not in the classroom right now, they are ready to keep learning.

Since every moment is an opportunity to teach and learn, here are some fun ways adult caregivers can keep learning happening at home and on the go.

Read all about it

Speaking of basketball, do you have any Warriors fans at your house? Pick up a free San Francisco Examiner and leave the sports section open on the breakfast table. Kids are already interested in their sports’ heroes, so reading about them won’t feel like work.

Pop-up science

Children often ask how things are made. How about having them figure it out? Take some healthy, low-sugar juice, some paper cups and popsicle sticks (you can get them at the grocery store). Have your child pour juice into the cups and place them in the freezer. Set the timer for an hour or so and have your child check the juice cups and place popsicle sticks into the semi-frozen juice. Keep checking until the juice is solid.

But wait! Before they enjoy their homemade treat, ask your child to come up with answers to why the juice became a solid? Why do you have to wait to put the stick in?

The idea is to get them in the habit of making guesses as to why something happened, and repeating the process to notice even more, a key part of science. You may have a budding chef, engineer or physicist on your hands.

I spy, with my little eye …

When you’re out and about with your child, have everyone keep an eye out for shapes. You never know what you’ll find in the architecture at a playground or shopping mall. Kids who like to draw can bring a sketchbook and colorful pencils to turn the exploration into art.

It’s not just fun — it’s important for school.

I can’t wait to see our students back in school on Aug. 21 and to hear all about what they learned over the summer.

Keep learning

Be sure to check out all the free and low-cost summer learning options offered by The City and community organizations at http://www.sfkids.org/.

Vincent Matthews is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District. The Superintendent’s Column will return on Aug. 15, the week before students return to school.

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