Chang Esau: Spring break offers opportunities to continue learning in a fun way

Spring break is here and that means a much-needed break for teachers, students and parents. However, just because students get a break from the classroom doesn’t mean our kids should stop learning. In fact, spring break offers the opportunity for parents to explore creative and fun ways to keep their kids engaged in learning activities -- activities that challenge them and help them develop critical-thinking and other skills that will help them succeed in college, career and life.

Here are five things you can do with your students over spring break to keep them engaged and challenged:

1. Write a spring break journal: Encourage your children to document their spring break experiences and write journal entries about their activities. The entries can then be typed and emailed to friends and relatives. Writing helps students develop storytelling and communications skills. Learning to put complete thoughts on paper helps to solidify ideas, and writing helps students makes sense of what they are experiencing.

2. Visit a museum: There are numerous museums in the Phoenix area that offer great activities for kids. For example, Mesa's Arizona Museum for Youth, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, the Arizona Science Center and the Heard Museum all have specific information and activities for children of all ages. Museums can provide unique learning experiences and the opportunity to engage visual, auditory and tactile senses. When you visit the museum, ask for learning guides or other activities you can do with your child based on what they are seeing and experiencing.

3. Shadow a professional: Explore different careers with your child and arrange for them to meet someone who works in that field. For example, if your child is interested in being a firefighter, arrange for a visit to a firehouse. Or, if your child is interested in being a lawyer, consider visiting a local courtroom.

4. Practice math skills: Showing your children how you use math in everyday life is one of the best ways to illustrate math concepts. A great hands-on way to help students practice their math is to let them be in charge of the money for one day during spring break. For example, if you go to the grocery store, have them develop a budget, calculate the costs and pay the bill. If you are eating out at a restaurant, ask them to figure out the cost of each person’s meal and estimate the tip.

5. Take a trip to your local library and a start a parent-child book club: Help your child pick out an age appropriate book and agree to read it together. Read aloud to younger children and encourage independent reading with older children. Start a parent-child book club by talking about what you are reading and sharing your observations about the story and the characters.

Expect More Arizona is working to build a world-class education system in Arizona. By ensuring high quality learning experiences both in and out of the classroom, Arizona students will be better prepared to succeed in college, career and life.

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Photo: Pearl Chang Esau is the president and CEO of Expect More Arizona, a high expectations movement dedicated to making Arizona education the best in the nation.