How to Best Motivate Student Participation in Summer Programs

 

Summer is upon us! As educators, we welcome the break but at the same time, can’t help but worry that our students will squander the months of vacation time. “Summer slide” is a well-documented phenomenon every educator hopes to avoid, and that’s where summer programs can be an effective tool in helping students stay on track.

Yet, motivating students to participate in any type of summer program can be a struggle, especially when the summer program isn’t 100% recreational. How can we inspire and encourage our students to dedicate some of their vacation time to furthering their knowledge while making them feel like they aren’t back in the classroom?

Engage Students With Hands-On, Project-Based Learning
“Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand.” – Chinese Proverb

Summer is an excellent time for students to get involved in hands-on, project-based learning that allows them not only to express their creativity but also solidify key concepts they have learned during the school year.

For students who are visual, auditory or tactile learners, this can be an excellent opportunity to pursue non-traditional forms of education beyond just textbooks and blackboards. Providing students with avenues to pursue their strengths and interests will inspire them to participate actively in summer programs.

Demonstrate Relevance to Real-Life
Schools were created with the intention of preparing students for life. However, as the focus in schools has increasingly shifted to producing good test scores and other arbitrary indicators, more and more students are becoming disillusioned with school – and its relevance to life after graduation. A 2017 survey from YouthTruth found that only 54% of middle school and 46% of high school students found what they were learning in school to be relevant to their lives. 

Luckily, technology can help bridge this gap. Educators can take advantage of resources like Read to Lead, a dynamic platform that allows students to improve literacy and leadership skills while exploring a variety of career options. By putting students in the role of key decision maker in the community, they learn valuable life skills and are able to see the connection between what they learn in school and their future careers. Because Read to Lead is a game-based program with numerous hands-on, project-based lesson plans, students don’t feel like they are back in the classroom during their summer break. 

Challenge Students with Multi-Faceted Projects
As a working adult, how often do you work alone, on a project that requires only a single set of skills? The answer is hardly ever. The working world is all about collaboration, teamwork, and leveraging a variety of skills from different disciplines. However, when it comes to our students, we often present them with one-dimensional projects that do not translate to the real world.

Encourage your students to discover how math skills, literacy and comprehension apply to real world situations to help them understand the value of what they are learning. Challenge them with projects that draw on skills they learn in various subjects in school. 

Creating a business plan and implementing the business idea, or designing and building a product that solves a problem in the community are just two examples of a myriad of multi-faceted project ideas that will help students draw connections between their classroom learning and the real world. These projects are also perfect as summer-time activities – students will have sufficient time and energy to dedicate to these extensive projects without having to worry about keeping up with homework.

Multi-faceted projects that push students to expand their minds and see connections between different disciplines can be highly beneficial to students, and a strong motivator – particularly when students are given the chance to take ownership and pride in their projects.

Motivating students to participate in summer programs may not be easy, but when done successfully, can ensure that students have a fruitful summer that contributes to their long-term educational and career success. For example, check out the results from a Horizons National and Read To Lead summer program project where 80% of students reported an increase in reading and motivation to read! Let’s work to create engaging summer programs that will inspire our students to keep learning and growing.