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School survey seeks ideas for activities in the summer

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In the middle of winter, imagining 90 degree days in June and July may be difficult; however, several staff members with the Carroll County School District are doing just that as they make plans to offer fun and engaging activities to keep kids’ minds and bodies sharp during the summer.

“Summer is a time for relaxing and recharging the batteries,” said Lisa James, superintendent of the Carroll County School District.  “But for many students, it’s also a time of boredom and isolation.  We want to help kids connect with things that are positive and constructive during summer.”

Research from Johns Hopkins University indicates that students on average lose about two months of educational progress over the summer; however, James said that well-organized and engaging summer programs can help students avoid the “summer slide,” which occurs when students forget some of what they learned during the previous school year.

Pam Williams, elementary instructional supervisor for the Carroll County School District, said that the key to well-designed summer programs is keeping youth engaged without taking away the freedom and flexibility of summer.

“Out of school learning has to be different to make it more appealing and something that youth want to do,” said Williams.

To ensure that the summer activities offered will match what students and their families need and are willing to participate in, the school district sent out an online survey to parents of elementary school children, and they are also asking middle and high school students to take the survey at school.

“We want to plan the kinds of activities in which students can learn, but it will be fun, active, hands-on learning,” said James.  “We are asking our planners to be creative, to think of different ways to reach our kids, and to get ideas from students, parents, and the community.”

One community group accepting James’ challenge is Champions for a Drug-Free Carroll County, which is applying for a grant from the Kentucky Agency for Substance Abuse Prevention, to offer alternative positive programming that emphasizes the 40 Developmental Assets, the positive experiences and qualities that all children need for healthy development.

“We want to plan something that gives youth a chance to work on skills like problem solving, conflict resolution, planning, and decision making, and we also want to help youth develop a more positive identity,” said Matthew Lipe, coordinator of Champions for a Drug-Free Carroll County.

Robin Huesman, coordinator of the Carroll County Family Ties Resource Center, usually offers a week-long day camp in which children from five years through fifth grade attend field trips and participate in new and different activities.

“Our goal is to expose our children to different experiences that they might not otherwise get a chance to have,” said Huesman.

Misty Wheeler, coordinator of Carroll County’s 21st Century Learning Center, also plans summer activities.  Wheeler works with youth that range from fourth grade through eighth grade.

“Over the years of offering summer camps, I’ve learned what kids generally like and what they don’t like,” said Wheeler.  “Last year, we took our campers to the pool and learned about water safety,” said Wheeler. “They loved that activity and learned some valuable skills that they wouldn’t otherwise learn in school.”

James said the actual dates for summer activities are usually not set until late March when it’s not as likely that school will be cancelled due to inclement weather.

Parents and students can access the summer activities survey by visiting the website for the Carroll County School District at www.carroll.kyschools.us.

Jeff Fremin is director of public relations for Carroll County Public Schools.