(BPT) - Summer vacation is all about freedom and flexibility for most teens, and sometimes all they want to do is kick back and relax. While a break from structured school days and homework can be refreshing, too many weeks without flexing mental muscles can mean losing knowledge teens gained over the school year.
This is referred to as “summer slide,” when kids of all ages can forget important knowledge or skills, having to relearn them when they return to school in the fall. Summer slide happens with every subject, from math and science to reading and writing. In math alone, students lose approximately 2.6 months of learning on average over the summer, according to Harvard Graduate School of Education.
But summer vacation can be a fantastic time for teens to utilize existing knowledge, develop new interests and even gain long-term job skills — while making new friends and having fun. One place that provides great opportunities for youth to make the most of summer break is Boys & Girls Clubs of America, with more than 4,600 Club locations nationwide.
In addition to providing a safe, social environment for out-of-school time, Boys & Girls Clubs offer a wide range of enrichment programs, many of which focus on academic success and workforce development. For example, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Comcast NBCUniversal are celebrating the five-year anniversary of the MyFuture technology platform. The MyFuture online platform helps kids and teens increase their digital literacy and technology know-how through experiences that break down complex subjects, from graphic design to computer programming, into easy-to-learn activities that boost their skills and confidence.
“It opens up their world,” says T.J. Chappel, a local Boys & Girls Club director. “A lot of kids don’t understand how video games are made, or what engineers go through on a daily basis ... MyFuture is a first step in breaking down how that technology comes to life. It’s great to see young people get so much enjoyment from learning new things, especially critical skills that will prepare them for success in any career.”
Teens who have participated in the MyFuture platform over the past five years and are now beginning their college and career paths share tips for ways they've stayed sharp and sparked new interests while still having plenty of fun over the summer:
Log on to learn new tech tricks
MyFuture provides teens with a safe, fun digital platform where they can learn about computer coding, photo editing, how to make apps or create videos, or learn how to write lyrics — all kinds of interesting projects. Not only are the activities enjoyable, they also teach the digital skills needed for college. Get started at MyFuture.net.
Set up a job shadow
It’s never too early for teens to start networking and exploring potential career paths. By talking to parents, coaches, mentors and other adults in their life, teens can discover connections that could help them get a sense of what those jobs are really like to see if it’s a fit for their future.
Try a new activity
Trying something different challenges the brain in new and unexpected ways, plus helps build important teen confidence. What's more, new activities can help you learn about who you are and what you like, which can uncover the things you are most passionate about. This can help teens become well-rounded and ready for a dynamic future. So encourage them to try out that cooking class, coding club or art group!
What's a great way to give back to the community, learn new skills and build a resume? Teens who dedicate some time during the summer to volunteering feel good about themselves and get to meet new people, all while practicing important skills. If your teen has an area of interest, explore opportunities that center around that at local organizations. From computer-based jobs to hands-on activities, opportunities abound at a variety of nonprofits.
Visit a Boys & Girls Club
You can find a Club near you and join programs that fit your interests — from sports, or art and music, to learning about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). There are classes and groups for all ages, so you can find something you really enjoy doing. It's a fun, safe place to hang out, and there's always something to do. Check out BGCA.org to find a Club near you.
Summer can be so much more than just playing a video game … it’s an opportunity to learn how to also create the game. Teens who take advantage of their time can keep learning and growing — online and off — in creative ways by using all the opportunities and resources available to them.