Kellie Huff, CCC-SLP | Article

Forget Summer Reading Lists and Practicing Math Facts...What???

Forget Summer Reading Lists and Practicing Math
Facts, Let’s Make Summer Learning Fun This Year!!
Project Based Learning: a method of highly effective instruction proven to increase academic achievement,
understanding and retention of learning as well as improve critical thinking, communication and teamwork.
This summer, let’s help our kids enjoy their summer and sharpen their minds for the next school year. Many
children consider summer a sacred, care-free, no homework zone. But slacking off the entire time can cause
students to forget what they’ve learned and that puts them behind for the next school year. Often referred to
as “summer brain drain”, many teachers find themselves every fall re-teaching skills lost during the lazy days of
summer, according to the National Summer Learning Association in Baltimore.
“Kids are naturally curious,” says Matthew Tarpley, of The Aurora Schools’ Tucker Campus. “What they want is
to engage in learning in areas of their interest and involve family and friends.”
Project Based Learning is the way most adults learn and it’s the way most children learn in their area of interest,
which then grows into hobbies and strengths. So why not begin where your child is and build a great summer of
learning fun?
“Looking back to the summer learning activities I created for my girls, I now realize they were all Project Based
Learning”, says Kellie Huff, Founder and CEO of Aurora. “I built their summer projects based on a few critical
Their areas of interest
The family’s summer schedule and plans
Their academic weaknesses from the previous year
Pre-Learning objectives for the next school year
I’ve experienced the success achieved through Project Based Learning with my own children and with the
students at the The Aurora Schools. Because of this, we have structured our intensive summer learning camps
around the core ingredients of Project Based Learning. Our Summer Brain Camp Themes of Creative
Expressions, Aurora Idol, Moovin’ & Groovin’ and Weird Science serve as the jumping off points for engaging
students in staying sharp and moving ahead. We carefully measure what our campers learn and we routinely
see gains of 1-2 years for through using Project Based Education and Neurocognitive programs. “
A key ingredient in Project Based Learning is demonstrating that you have learned the material. Kellie Huff
states, “We all know the best way to learn something is to teach it. We learn best by teaching.” So, each week,
my girls had the opportunity to teach each of us something they learned. This kept the curiosity level high and
significantly built their confidence. “Two examples of our Project Based Learning Fun Summers:
Colonial Times: When my girls were the age that American Girl dolls were all they wanted to talk about, my
youngest daughter, Audrey, loved the colonial doll, Felicity Merriman. Her high interest in Felicity provided the
framework for our summer that year. My oldest daughter, Lauren, was 12 at the time and although her interest
in American Girl Dolls had begun to wane, Lauren knew all the stories and served the roll of teacher for Audrey
on many occasions. Additionally, American History was a subject Lauren would experience her next school year.
So began our summer learning journey.
American History and Reading: We set the timeline. Felicity lived in Colonial Williamsburg just prior to the
Revolutionary War. Revolutionary War = July 4
= summer vacation to Williamsburg, Virginia where the story of
Felicity, her friends and family and her life are available for us to experience today.
But, a vacation to a historical American city is not the object here. The vacation only served as the apex of this
experiential summer. There was much more to see and do around Atlanta in preparation for that trip. First,
there were no TV’s in Colonial America, so to experience life the way Felicity experienced life, we moved our
TV’s in the closets for the summer. This may seem extreme and I was only able to get away with this for a
couple of summers, but the benefits were very much worth it.
We visited the Atlanta History Center on sheep shearing day and learned about spinning, dyeing, and weaving
wool for warm clothes in preparation for the winter months. Any idea of the number of math facts contained in
this process? A bunch. So we bought inexpensive looms and a bag of thick, wool yarn and began weaving. In
the summer evenings, with no TV, we burned candles the way Felicity’s family would have done, Lauren read
from the American Girl books and a few others that allowed us to peer into the lives of families in Colonial
America along with some tragic stories from the American Revolution, and we wove our wool yarn into small
We learned the art of soap and candle making at the primitive cabin on Trinity Street in Decatur where the city
offered free classes on Wednesday mornings once per month. We washed with our soap and burned our own
candles. We enjoyed making candles so much that we made more candles to give as Christmas gifts later that
year. Next, sewing and embroidery. I had a great time with the sewing and embroidery and expected my girls
would as well. But they didn’t. And that’s ok because there was so much more to learn about life in Colonial
America. And yet, they still have the little embroidered pillows they made that summer.
Math and science of cooking: We all know the wonderful use of cooking from recipes is a great way to bring
math to life for our children. Colonial American cooking gave us a myriad of opportunities to use math facts and
learn the science behind early American cooking and food storage. From soda bread, gruel, corn meal muffins,
scones, beef stew, New Brunswick stew to jam making and high tea. The summer was filled with wonderful
meals made by sweet little hands who learned all about adding, subtracting and multiplying fractions, and the
properties of yeast, baking soda, sugar and salt.

***At the time, we didn’t have a garden. But just imagine what we could have learned if we had added our own
vegetable garden to the project. These are just a few of the activities we enjoyed that summer. The next summer found us learning Greek mythology, history, art and architecture. More to follow...