Parents and caregivers, whether we’re ready for it or not, summer is quickly approaching. Like many of you, I am looking forward to slower mornings, a less strict routine, and spending lots of time as a family.
Something else I’m happily anticipating is infusing learning into our summer. As a former educator, I am quite familiar with the “summer slide,” wherein students lose some of the progress they’ve made during the school year. Since both of my children are elementary schoolers, this doesn’t mean I’m concerned about complex math formulas; but rather, maintaining their reading and writing skills, and continuing to build curiosity and a genuine love of learning.
While workbooks and flashcards can be helpful, Richmond offers several hands-on learning experiences for children, and what’s more, many are incentivized, so even a reluctant child can have some buy-in.
Summer Learning Opportunities around RVA
Junior Ranger Programs
Both Virginia and National Parks offer Junior Ranger Programs, typically for ages 5-13, but any age can participate. I recommend printing off the booklet prior to your park visit, so your child will have some background knowledge.
For example, my children earned Junior Ranger badges at Maggie Walker Historic Site. We watched a video about Maggie Walker and completed some activities in the booklets before the tour. Then, during the tour the kids were able to complete all the activities. When kids receive their badges from the park rangers, they repeat a short oath, and they’re given a patch.
Some nearby parks with Junior Ranger Programs: Pocahontas State Park, Powhatan State Park, and Richmond National Battlefield Park.
While there is a parking fee for Virginia State Parks, you may check out a VSP backpack from your local library, and forgo that fee.
Some National Parks have admission fees, but Maggie Walker Historic Site tours are free, as are many battlefields like Cold Harbor, in Hanover. Further, the Every Kid Outdoors Program offers all 4th graders and their families (or one vehicle) free admission to all National Parks.
Summer Learning & Reading Programs
There are a variety of summer reading programs throughout RVA, many offering children flexibility and choice. We particularly love the BBGB Summer Reading Book Bingo, as it incorporates fun into reading with options like “read a book while eating ice cream,” or “read a book with a flashlight.” Since my primary goal is for my children to love reading, this is a perfect way to ensure they continue enjoying reading all summer long.
Local libraries also facilitate phenomenal Summer Learning Programs, with great prizes! Chesterfield County Public Library, for example, has participants log their activities using an app, and there are rewards as you complete certain levels. Prizes include small toys, gift cards, tickets to an amusement park and more.
Junior Trail Ambassador Program
Your child doesn’t necessarily need to be a cycling expert to participate in this program. In fact, the Virginia Capital Trail’s family-friendly Junior Trail Ambassador Program is designed to encourage environmental awareness through activities like a Plant Identification Log, and a Cap Trail Bingo Board. While it is recommended for ages 8 and up, a younger child could complete the booklet with support from a grownup.
While the booklet is 29 pages, children only need to complete 5 activities. And, upon completion, they’ll earn a certificate and some VCT swag!
All of the aforementioned programs are self-paced, meaning you can earn your badge, or prize in a day, or you can break up the activities throughout the summer; finding the best strategy that works for your family. As you plan your fun summer activities, keep in mind all the opportunities for learning right here in RVA.