Battling Summer Learning Loss

by | Jul 4, 2015

Summer: An annual tradition when children take a literal vacation from formal education, foregoing structured learning opportunities for lighthearted fun with friends and family. In spite of the well-intentioned idea of a formal break from school, this cultural custom has consequences. According to the National Summer Learning Association, most children experience significant learning loss in the summer months, losing two months or more of grade level equivalency in math skills and reading achievement. For many children, informal learning experiences such as summer camps, Parents’ Night Out events and internships serve to fill that three-month gap. For others, a lack of resources and access to such activities halts summer learning.

To combat the lack of universally-accessible summer learning opportunities, Pacific Science Center offers two free science programs to engage children from underserved communities.

STEM In Your Library
Last summer, Pacific Science Center and Seattle Public Library began a partnership with the aim of reducing summer learning loss. The Library’s new Summer of Learning program brings a wide range of exciting activities to local libraries, and provides others that can be tried at home or with friends. As part of this effort, a team of Science Center educators developed kits of math, science and engineering activities for libraries to use throughout summer. Activities are designed to create fun, collaborative learning experiences, and children who sign up and complete an activity log are eligible for prizes.

To ensure success in engaging youth with content, our staff provided training for local librarians to help them effectively facilitate the activities and spark interest in STEM.

Stop by a Seattle library this summer to see our science kits in action. If your child would like to participate in the 2015 Summer of Learning, visit

STEM Outside of School
Now entering its fifth summer, the STEM-OST program (out-of-school-time) brings exciting informal STEM activities and lessons to community centers, camps, church groups and schools in low-income areas in Seattle. Funded by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation through 2014 and this year by a generous grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the program strives to build a curiosity for math and science that will lead to the pursuit of future STEM careers. Our Science On Wheels educators and Discovery Corps teens deliver the STEM-OST lessons, reaching about 1,500 children a summer. With strong student participation and positive community support, Science On Wheels continues to reach local underserved youth while making summer education programs accessible for our community.

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