How to enjoy summer and still keep your mind sharp

While you’re sleeping until noon and hitting the beach this summer, don’t let summer learning loss affect your memory and ability to learn. Even for students in higher education it’s important to keep your brain as well as your body active over the summer.

You can still enjoy the beach while taking summer courses.

You can still enjoy the beach while taking summer courses.

You don’t have to be a nerd or an overachiever to get some benefit out of summer learning. College students can get a head start on next semester’s classes, study abroad, check out an online schedule of classes or delve into a summer reading list.

Summer learning loss

Children and young adults experience learning loss during the summer when they are not engaged in educational activities. Research over the last hundred years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer, according to the National Summer Learning Association. Here are some ways you can study and learn while still enjoying summer.

Brush up on troublesome material. If there’s a subject in school that you know you have difficulty with, why not brush up on it over the summer so you’re more prepared next semester. Read a textbook, review past tests or papers that got poor grades, get a sneak peek and head start on courses you know you’ll be taking next semester. This self-imposed extra credit work will help you digest subject matter that you need extra time to understand.

Take a class. “Get ahead academically and save some cash while taking a class online or at a local community college,” suggests a writer at in “15 Critical Facts Everyone Should Know About Summer Learning Loss.” Many colleges offer online classes during the summer, many of which count toward your college credits. Classes can be online videos, web conference links and virtual classrooms, or a hybrid of online and in-person classes.

Study abroad. Visiting another country, learning the history and architecture, and being immersed in the language and culture are excellent ways to learn, broaden your horizons and earn college credit. You get the best of both worlds: a vacation in a far off land, and international experience. “Instead of reading about that masterpiece in your art history book, go and see it. Spend a few months in a community affected by the issues you’ve been studying in your public health class. Intern abroad and gain international business experience for your international business class,” suggests

Join a humanitarian cause. Like study abroad, international education can involve travel to other countries where students learn about conservation, sustainability and cultural conflicts. Paul Bueno de Mesquita, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies at Tribhuvan University in Nepal, offers cultural trips in which students learn how political conflicts in Nepal are being resolved using nonviolence principles and practices based on the philosophies of Martin Luther King, Jr. “Students participated in community service programs while experiencing a completely different culture, in one of the world’s most remote locations, while participating in nonviolent social transformation,” said Bueno de Mesquita in “Peace Pathways,” written by Dana Wilkie in International Educator, May/June 2013.

Take your hobbies to the next level. Maybe you like to stargaze or design clothes for your friends. Take the summer to read up on a hobby or pastime and learn the academics behind it. Study the craft of a musician you like, visit a museum of art or science, go to a planetarium, volunteer at an animal shelter, act in community theater, go to a historical re-enactment. If it’s something you find enjoyable already, pursue it as an academic endeavor. You might even decide to choose this as your field of study and make a career out of it.

Watch a historical movie or read a book about a social issue. You can at least learn something while you’re being a couch potato. Watch a documentary or current events movie, or read a book on the best seller list or a literary classic. Then do extra research about it on the side. Learn the historical context or social issues discussed in the movie or book. Read a biography of the main characters and their achievements.

For more information on summer learning activities, visit Questia’s Education library.

How do you plan to keep your brain active this summer? Tell us in the comments.

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