News / USA

Summer Arts Keep Students Learning

Teacher Gloria Pegram leads a summer school session at Bushman Elementary in Dallas, Texas. (VOA/B. Zeeble)
Teacher Gloria Pegram leads a summer school session at Bushman Elementary in Dallas, Texas. (VOA/B. Zeeble)
Bill Zeeble
DALLAS, Texas — June, July and August are vacation months for most American schoolchildren. But education research shows some young students pay a high price for that long summer break in the academic year. They forget so much of what they learned that by the time they start the next grade, they’re way behind. 
Summer school

More than 400 students attend summer school Bushman Elementary in Dallas. Hundreds more are in other schools around the city, most are there to make up for poor grades during the regular school year.
There’s more going on in one third grade social studies class than students reading aloud about communities, which is today’s topic. The nine and 10 year olds here are also studying art.

Combining subjects, increasing learning

Visual Arts Instructor Ron Oliver works to combine the two subjects. "The kids that never get it - like the 30 percent that always struggle on testing - they thrive in this kind of atmosphere," he said. "Sometimes they just learn differently. Like I would. And, we give them a different twist on how to learn it."
So Oliver says in addition to reading about communities and markets, students draw community scenes. "And they love to be able to express themselves in picture form. I think that’s the important thing," he adds.
"When I was drawing, I was expressing my feelings, and showing what was happening," explains one student.  
Using art to reinforce retention

Teacher Gloria Pegram, who has taught elementary school for 15 years, says art reinforces memory.

"When they’re able to draw and express themselves in a creative manner, with core topics like this - even with math, we try to be creative with it - it helps their retention," she says. "They remember. They say, 'Oh, yes, I remember this because..' and they’ll go into what we were doing, hands-on, whatever activity we were doing, to help them understand it better, and to retain it." 
Pegram says students who don’t take part in summer enrichment classes often need to re-learn lessons when they return in the fall. That’s especially true of low-income students, who are less likely to vacation in interesting places, attend summer camps, or live near public libraries offering both books to read and special summer reading programs. 
Learning loss, without such interventions

"And for poor kids, the loss can be as much as three months of school learning that just disappears over the course of the summer," says Ed Pauly, director of research and evaluation at the Wallace Foundation.

The non-profit has invested $50 million to research summer programs that can prevent that learning loss. 
"That’s a very significant part of the achievement gap that separates kids from low-income communities from kids from more affluent communities," Pauly says.

He says one promising approach has been to incorporate art, as they do at Bushman Elementary.

"We need kids to master reading and math. Arts gets them excited about being there every day. And the arts use reading and math. The arts are a great way to tie together learning experiences," he says. 
That holds true, as well, during the regular school year. And that’s why Gloria Pegram says she’ll incorporate more creative elements into her elementary school classes this fall. 

"They’re still developing and they need more physical movement and activity so they can learn and still have fun. I don’t think anything’s wrong with learning and having fun at the same time," she said. "That’s my philosophy." 
While the Wallace Foundation studies what kind of programs work best, school systems across the United States are stepping up their summer offerings, not just to bridge the vacation gap but also to help struggling students make up for last year’s poor grades.

Nearly a third of New York state’s public school students are taking summer classes.  In Chicago, almost half of the city’s schoolkids are enrolled - trading traditional playtime for a summer of continued learning. 

You May Like

Video Egyptian Journalists Call for Freedom of Press

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs