As we head into the summer months, many programs are switching from a school year curriculum to a “camp” curriculum. Sometimes, this can be interpreted as shifting to a less academic focus. If you have worked in the field for even a short time, you know that this is a tremendous misinterpretation – children experience rich learning opportunities all throughout the year, even during summer months.
So, why does this misconception exist? It is possible that families believe this because they have not been properly educated or informed about the learning that goes on during “camp” activities. If this is the case, then we can easily address it through our communication with families enrolled in the program. Here are a few things you can do to address the concern:
- Become an expert in the early learning standards in your state, developmental milestones, and assessment criteria. Being able to communicate what children are learning begins with being 100% comfortable with the tools and resources that guide our practice. It will allow you to speak confidently when families share concerns, in both scheduled meetings and impromptu conversations.
- Include learning objectives or learning standards on lesson plans. This will help you remember to focus on certain skills or activities. It will also communicate to families that you continue to work with intention to prepare children for success in school.
- Share a description of several of the learning standards that will be addressed in planned activities each week in a parent letter. Even include a few learning standards that will be practices on the marketing materials used to promote camp activities. Every piece of communication to families should include a focus on academic skills. Doing so will help families understand how play-based, open-ended activities are also academic in nature.
- Document learning through photography or videos. Post or share images of children engaged in play-based activities with families. Include a list of the different skills that children are practicing while engaged in play.
- Invite family members to participate in the program. When family members are able to participate have them pick a learning standard or developmental milestone at random and see how many times that skill is evident in the environment and in the activities they observe.
- Share activity ideas that families can easily incorporate into their summer vacation plans. You could also send home ideas for play-based learning activities that are easy for families to try at home over the weekend. Include a list of skills or learning standards that would likely be evident during the activities. Include a list of questions or prompts that families can use to extend learning. Ask families to take pictures of children engages in the activities and share them with you for the children’s portfolios. You could also create a bulletin board that highlights summer learning at school and at home!