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National Summer Learning Day keeps young minds sharp
Aidan Fordham, left, and Janna Pennington, GSU's Coordinator of Service Learning in the Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement, look at pictures drawn by Aidan. - photo by EMILY EISENHART/Special
    Last week, the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department teamed up with Georgia Southern University's Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement to help Statesboro children keep their minds sharp by celebrating National Summer Learning Day.
    The Center for Summer Learning was founded about 15 years ago as a Johns Hopkins University undergraduate student's project. It has since grown into a day that communities around the nation play host to a National Summer Learning Day every summer.
    According to the center's Web site,, "Summer Learning Day is a time for communities across the nation to celebrate the importance of high-quality summer learning opportunities in the lives of young people and their families".
    In Statesboro, a group of Georgia Southern student volunteers visited the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department's Camp Cherokee on Friday. Cherokee is an 11-week summer camp for pre-k and kindergarten children. The GSU students read books to the 4, 5, and 6-year-old camp participants and then the children had the opportunity to discuss the book with the student volunteer and draw pictures about the book.
    "Our office believes that leadership starts with service," said Janna Pennington, coordinator of service learning in the Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement at GSU. "College students love kids and I knew that kids really seem to benefit from interaction with college students. National Summer Learning Day seemed like a great avenue for college students to work with the children in our community."
    The summer learning event was one of several opportunities children in the Recreation Department's summer camps receive over the summer to spend some time learning, as well as playing. Joy Deal, program supervisor, explained that the children have educational time approximately three times a week.
    "During educational time, the camp staff engage the children in activities in a 'Summer Bridge Activity' work book," she said. "These are focused on the grade level children have just completed and help them to maintain a high level of learning throughout the summer."
    Deal also said the Statesboro Regional Library brings RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) to the camp sites and provides a free book to all children in the summer day camps.
    "We strongly encourage children to read during the summe," Deal said. "I do believe that children lose some of what they learn during the school year, and the research suggests that when students continue their learning throughout summer, they are more prepared when they go back to school in August."
    The Center for Summer Learning maintains the same position as Deal, and cites several research studies that conclude "summer learning loss" is a very "real" phenomenon and can have some devastating consequences. The center's Web site explains that those who suffer most from lack of summer learning are low-income students.
    Camp Cherokee site coordinator, Danielle Harris called Statesboro's own small celebration of National Summer Learning Day a success.
    "The kids were having so much fun, and the college students were smiling and enjoying themselves, too. It's such a great idea to have kids in school mode during the summer, and this camp really proves that kids can have fun while learning," Harris said.
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