PBS in the Classroom

Adding Creative Thinking to Summer Learning

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May 16, 2017

The final bell chimes loudly, marking school’s official end for summer. As educators, we usually take a big sigh of relief and crack a smile knowing we have just completed another school year. Our students feel the same and hopefully also feel a sense of accomplishment. Summer break is a great time for rejuvenation for both educators and students. Although I enjoy working with students in school, we all appreciate the time to relax, kick back, and really slow down during the months of June and July. But does summer learning cross our minds during the month of May? It definitely should! Summer break is a great time for educators to continue to encourage learning and to step outside of the box of common core standards and endless assessments. With some planning, educators have an awesome and unique opportunity to really allow students’ learning to be personalized and self-driven rather than mandated to bubbling in answer sheets and robotically following pacing calendars. 

Flip the script on summer learning

Although, summer can provide a much-needed time for students to relax and enjoy some downtime, many of our students’ summer schedules and routines vary greatly from the school year. Each students’ summer learning environment will likely vary with potentially very little or limited access to technology. Educators should use these variables not as obstacles, but as opportunities to individualize and differentiate summer learning for students. Additionally, if your classroom experience has been rigid and stifling for some students that need more flexibility, educators can flip the script and help create summer learning experiences that excite and allow students time to tinker and create.

Summer learning should not be something students dread but provide a great chance to continue to stimulate student learning. Summer learning activities don’t have to mean limiting opportunities for students to express their voice or discourage students from finding avenues to shine, explore, and take a deeper dive into an area that interests them. Involve them in the process of summer activity creation. Ask your students about things they would like to learn more about or are interested in, and want to explore over the summer. Be prepared with a baseline of ideas, but let go of control and understand some of your students’ ideas will be outside the box. That is okay and awesome! Have these discussions before school ends to encourage them, and then help provide whatever tools/resources you can before they leave.  

Creative Summer Challenges

Here’s a sample of the great summer learning opportunities, and accompanying PBS LearningMedia resources, you can encourage for your students to participate in:  

This is just the beginning! In the webinar below (recorded May 18, 2017), I share some easy, fun – both technology and non-technology baseline ideas – to provide your students with enriching opportunities. The ability to continue to keep students excited about learning during the summer months, challenging them, as well as assisting them in finding passions and interest areas, are so important to their growth and development. This webinar will excite educators about the wonderful bridge and empowerment for their students’ learning that can be created – it just takes a little planning. Encouraging your students to engage in summer learning/activities will pay dividends for them when they return to school in the fall. 


Shana serves as technology coordinator at Creekland Middle School in Lawrenceville, GA as well as an adjunct teacher for Georgia Virtual School. She believes technology provides an effective means to collaborate, innovate, and open doors for all students. Shana enjoys her role as technology coordinator because it allows her to help teachers create meaningful and engaging learning opportunities for all students. She is dedicated to empowering and teaching both students and teachers how to effectively use technology as a tool to enhance and take charge of their own growth.

Shana White

Shana White Technology Coordinator

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