Summer is a wonderful time for children to get out in the sun and enjoy a few carefree days without a set schedule or homework. However, as parents, we know that too many of these days will lead to the inevitable declaration, “I’m bored!” Summer can also offer many opportunities for learning disguised as fun.
Summer reading programs offered by your local public library provide a wonderful opportunity for children to receive recognition for reading their favorite books. Reading is the best way to ensure that valuable instruction is not lost over the summer months.
With the economy down and the price of gasoline going up, many families are choosing to stay close to home for their vacations. In every corner of Mississippi, there are great places to visit that offer children an opportunity to learn and have fun at the same time. There are a number of museums that address a wide range of interests. The Tupelo Automobile Museum may spark a child’s interest in becoming an engineer. The Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale is a wonderful experience for any budding musician. In Jackson, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, the Old Capitol Museum and the State Capitol offer children the chance to explore science and history. The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport helps children flex their math, science and creativity muscles.
History buffs will enjoy a trip to the Vicksburg National Military Park or a drive down the Natchez Trace Parkway, which stretches from Natchez to Nashville, Tenn. Even driving the Parkway for a short distance provides rest stops with information on the early history of our state.
Mississippi is known for being the home of many of the finest American writers. A trip to William Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak, in Oxford or Eudora Welty’s home in Jackson, or Tennessee Williams Birthplace Home and Welcome Center in Columbus may inspire your child to pick up a pen and eventually be named among Mississippi’s finest writers. The gardens of these homes can be equally as inspiring as the homes.
The Mississippi Museum of Art features exhibits that ignite the imagination and spark creativity in young minds. Their exhibit, the Mississippi Story, is divided thematically into four sections: Mississippi’s Landscape, Mississippi’s People, Life in Mississippi, and Exporting Mississippi’s Culture. The Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum /National Agricultural Aviation Museum allows children to step back in time and imagine how their lives would have been different if they had been born in a different century.
When discussing activities and experiences in your own backyard that will help inform, inspire and excite your children, we should not overlook your own backyard — literally. Your backyard or local parks are full of fauna and flora that you and your child can enjoy identifying and learning about together. You can use something as simple as a trip to the grocery store as a teachable moment. You can reinforce both reading and math skills in a single trip. Even though children take a hiatus from school, they never take a hiatus from learning. It is important that we use summer to its fullest potential so our boys and girls can reach their fullest potential.
Dr. Hank M. Bounds is Mississippi’s state superintendent of education.
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