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On the road again: Sprinkle in education on your summer trip

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Mom and two daughters sit in an open trunk of their car, looking at a map. One girl has binoculars and is looking at the view.

In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1. When to start fun lessons?
2. How to pick attractions?
3. How to make long car rides fun?

Summer travel is a great time to keep the learning going for your kids - even if you have to sneak it in. That's because 52 percent of students lost an average of 39 percent of their school year gains during the summer, according to a 2020 study published in American Education Research Journal.   

To help fight the summer slide on a road trip, we share advice from three local voices below.  

1. WHEN TO START FUN LESSONS?  

Even the youngest can improve their language and social skills during a road trip. Reading signs and license plates, identifying colors and learning song lyrics can all be done from a car seat.  

Charlene Farrington, museum director for the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum in Delray Beach, taught her two sons how to interact with people, especially from other cultures, during summer adventures.  

“I wanted them to be curious and unafraid of other people. Secondarily, the ability to research and discover anything they need is an important skill that travel helped to instill,” she says. “My boys began traveling with family members at age 1. Most of our trips were to see family members in different parts of the country and the Bahamas.”  

2. HOW TO PICK ATTRACTIONS?  

Think interactivity! Your children don’t have to view everything as a lesson. It can be fun to learn about animal habitats at the zoo, or why butterflies are important in a garden, or what temperature ice cream begins to melt at the Dairy Queen.  

“As often as possible, get your kids moving and physically engaged with your travel stops,” says Tammy Walton, second-grade teacher for the Palm Beach County School District. “If they are doing it versus looking at it, the lesson is more likely to stick.”  

Farrington recommends researching attractions with your children so they can help pick where to go. Of course, she has a soft spot for museums.  

“Use your favorite search tools to locate museums — I’m in favor of those that showcase black history — state parks and other destinations in the town you plan to visit,” she says. “Find out their availability and make early reservations, if you can. Many small sites of interest don't have full-time staff and require advanced notice. Teach your children how to be curious and ask questions. Also, teach them the importance of supporting sites of interest financially.”  

Making a donation can be a math or finance lesson, for example.  

3. HOW TO ENLIVEN LONG CAR RIDE?  

Brandy Truex, a Boca Raton mother of three, learned how to ensure movies and educational shows are downloaded to fully charged devices. Her children are partial to Wild Kratts.

“One thing I do is play the Wow in the World podcast to break up the driving part of the trip,” she says. “I always learn something too!”

Books to read aloud are essential, she says, as are personal games, such as coloring books, note pads, crayons, sticker sheets, scratch pads and sticker puzzle books. Her kids love PAW Patrol Super Sticker Fun.

SOURCES:

• Tammy Walton, second-grade teacher, Palm Beach County School District 
• Charlene Farrington, museum director, Spady Cultural Heritage Museum

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