Helping To Stop The Summer Slide

Summer is finally here, yay! Who doesn’t love this time of year? For young people, in particular, it’s a time of fun. But there is another side of summer that parents, teachers and coaches know all too well: the dreaded summer slide. In case you’re not familiar with the concept, the summer slide is what happens when kids are out of class and off the fields and courts and their skills begin to slip away.

Every fall, the average teacher spends four to six weeks re-teaching material students have forgotten over the summer. This consumes valuable class time and — for those students that didn’t suffer the slide — can lead to boredom and inattention, which can, in turn, lead to additional academic and behavioral problems.

The same impact is seen among student athletes who go from a highly structured program during the school year to a far less regimented one over the summer. As with academics, the impact can take time to overcome. In fact, after just two weeks of reduced physical activity, lean muscle mass is lost, forcing coaches to do remedial work to get their teams back into shape.

The slide is also an issue among student musicians. When band and school music programs shut down for the summer, kids and teens are left to their own devices to find opportunities to play. While it’s true that private lessons may continue the structured activities that are so important for skill development, they may not be as present or pressing as they are during the school year.

One approach is to extend the school year. A growing number of districts around the country are currently providing full-year programs and even more offer extended school year services for students on individual educational plans (IEPs). As appealing and effective as this approach may be, it has its drawbacks: teacher and student burnout, scheduling facility upkeep and renovation and cost among them.

Programs like Explo, though, provide an alternative. These camps, which are held at Yale, Wellesley and Wheaton, combine traditional camp activities with more academic pursuits that help keep kids engaged and help develop their abilities. Many universities also offer their own independent programs that target high school students with specific academic interests.

On the athletic side of the ledger, services like CoachUp offer private coaching for student athletes. Even for players of team sports, a private program can focus on keeping specific skills sharp. Summer leagues and sports-specific camps can also be helpful for keeping student athletes at the top of their game and to prepare them for the fall sports.

For student musicians, programs like School of Rock run year round and provide an outlet and opportunity for kids to continue to hone their skills with peers. It might not be quite the same as playing clarinet in the high school marching band, but it encourages and supports the kind of musical thinking that can get rusty over the summer months if no outlet is available.

Brands that reach and communicate with teens should also consider how their messaging might change during the summer months. Kids have more time on their hands during the summer and their minds are more focused on fun and freedom. This reality should shape brand engagement. Messaging doesn’t need to be all about fun in the sun.

Solving for the summer slide isn’t an issue marketers can or should address on their own. Messages that support teens to read, play and make music shouldn’t be relegated to PSAs appearing in remnant inventory. Marketers should consider where these kinds of messages can be woven appropriately into their stories to encourage teens to take a more active and engaged approach to the summer.

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