Inside Lakota Learning
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The Lakota learning experience is one filled with inquiry, innovation and discovery. Every student's learning style, passions and interests are different, which is why the experience of one student will never be exactly that of another. It's why Lakota teachers and support staff are committed to student-centered learning and providing a personalized approach marked by differentiated teaching methods. 

Let the Lakota Learning Team explain what that means and how that goal plays out on a daily basis in our classrooms. Through this blog, they'll guide parents and community members through the strategy behind Lakota's student-centered curriculum and how different methods meet students' educational needs. And because learning doesn't stop at school, they'll provide tips and strategies for how to be partners in the learning process and create a positive learning environment at home. 

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There truly is nothing like the excitement and joy the first day of summer brings. Students, teachers, and parents, alike, relish in the fact that summer is here and a simpler life is on the horizon for the next few months. We all crave and look forward to a slower pace, a shorter to-do list, and more time on our hands to do the things that we enjoy. It allows us time to recharge and reconnect with the people we love.

But, just when you start to relax into your summer routine, you recall your child’s teacher sharing the importance of summer learning. “Oh, wait. So, what is that going to look like?”

For me, it is a major reality check every year when I realize that I have three children at home with and that it’s my responsibility to make sure they continue to learn. Through much trial and error, we have found some summer routines that not only keep my children engaged, but also make sure that they have plenty of opportunities to learn and grow.

Although I will share my experience of being home with my children in the summer, I realize that not all families are able to be with their children during the day. So, these ideas can absolutely be done on weekends/days off or can even be a resource that you share with caregivers. So, here are some of our favorites and a few new things we hope to try this year so that we have a summer filled with joy and learning.

1. Invite Children to Play

"Play is the highest form of research."

-Albert Einstein

Play is an important part of every child’s growth and development. All children (and even adults) have a fundamental right to play. Through play, children learn about their world. They learn to problem solve, communicate, and use their imagination. In a dream world, our children would play peacefully and independently all day long. In reality, children in the summer are trying to adapt to life that may be a little less structured than what they are used to. In our house, things quickly turn from “Yay, it’s summer!” to “I’m bored, where’s my iPad?” A while back, I discovered that one way I could encourage my children to play more is by setting up play invitations. I choose something that my children already own and set it up in an inviting way that will encourage them to play. This looks different for each of my children because of their interests and what they happen to already own. Here are a few images of what a play invitation might look like for each of my children.

Invitation to play space examples

I have found that setting up invitations like these hands-down gets my kids playing more. They enjoy the element of surprise of what I’m going to set up for them and they get to rediscover things that may have been shoved into the back of their closet and forgotten about. For the summer, my goal is to set up invitations like these after my kids are in bed for the night. Then, I can look forward to a slow morning sipping my coffee while all three of my kiddos are engaged in play. Sounds like a win-win to me!

2. Encourage Creativity

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
 - Maya Angelou 

Similar to play invitations, we also love art invitations. The purpose of an art invitation is simply to get children to explore in a creative way. An art invitation, for us, is almost always about the process and not the end product that is created. This type of process takes the pressure off children to make something look “right” and allows them to just enjoy the moment. It’s giving your child the opportunity to work with different art materials, experiment, and make choices as an artist. An art invitation doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a few invitations that we have done; however, if you need more ideas I highly suggest that you follow @100daysofartbar on Instagram. It is literally 100 days of different art invitations that are super inspiring. 

Examples of creative play stations

3. Get Out and Explore! 

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” 
- Rachel Carson

Outdoor exploration photo

There is only so much time we can spend inside playing. The biggest perk of summer is being able to explore the great outdoors. So much learning happens when children explore the world around them. In years past, we have created summer bucket lists of places we hope to visit throughout the summer. This year, we are setting a goal to visit a new park each week. There are so many places literally right around the corner from us just waiting to be explored. I also hope to teach my children the importance of slowing down and observing the world around them. To encourage observation, we’ll take along notebooks/sketchbooks and different supplies like crayons and maybe even watercolor paint. That way, we can sketch or write down what we are noticing and wondering. Who knows? This may even lead to an interest that your child will want to research and learn more about. Here are some links to some wonderful parks that we hope to check out this summer: 


4. Cultivate an Interest 

“Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” 
- William B. Yeats   
Whether at home or at school, the most powerful learning occurs when children have the opportunity to choose what they want to learn. Summer is a great time for students to engage in some self-selected learning. One way to help cultivate this kind of learning is by creating an interest basket. If I notice one of my children has a particular interest in something, I’ll throw some things together in a basket like books, photographs, and other objects that relate to that interest. If my child continues to be engaged and passionate about that topic, I might even allow them to deepen their learning through a project. For example, an interest in plants might begin with a basket of real seeds to observe, a diagram that shows the parts of a plant, paper to sketch or draw a plant, and some nonfiction books. This could eventually lead to a project of creating a home garden. Often times, these projects could engage the whole family and will most likely include practice with many academic skills, such as, reading, writing, math, etc. It is also extremely beneficial for our children to see us learn something new, so consider a project that would allow you to learn alongside your child. 

5. Build a Writing Habit 

“You can make anything by writing.” 
- C.S. Lewis 

Writing space photo

Writing is an important skill that all students need to learn but it is also one that requires lots and lots of practice. Encouraging your child to write, anything and everything, over the summer will reap many benefits. Writing is so closely connected to reading that often a child’s reading will improve with consistent writing practice. It also helps develop fine motor skills, gives children a voice, and often provides an outlet when dealing with strong emotions. To encourage writing with my kiddos, I have a writing area set up in our home stocked with blank paper, list paper, blank cards, and stapled booklets. They are able to make different choices depending at what they want to write. They learn that writing can serve different purposes. When my children aren’t sure what to write, I encourage notes of kindness to friends and family members, making a to-do list, or simply writing down a personal experience that they have had. Here are some favorite writing activities that I have explored with students and my own children:

6. Family Read Aloud

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” 
- Emilie Buckwald 

I couldn’t write a post about summer learning that didn’t include reading! We want children reading all of the time. I, personally, don’t like quantifying it with a number like 20 minutes per day. What I want is for my children to view themselves as readers - for reading to be something they do because they want to, because they love learning about new things, traveling to far away places, or connecting with a character. This can be easier said than done, but one of the best ways to begin is to get children to fall in love with books! And, I have found that all children (ages 0 - 100) love to hear a book being read aloud. The past couple of summers, I have chosen a chapter book to read aloud to my kids. We read a chapter or two a day and have a quick discussion afterward about what we notice, what we wonder, and what we predict will happen next. The best thing is the way that we connect as a family through that story. It is a part of the day that we all look forward to. Your local libraries (see links below) also have excellent programs that encourage children to read over the summer. The goal with reading is always about making it engaging for your child. Motivation is key!

These are just a few ways that can give your child a summer filled with fun and learning. The possibilities are endless.  Always remember, parents, that you have as much an impact on your child’s learning as teachers. You know them best and can help guide their interests and passions in a way that we can’t replicate at school. Learning happens when children feel safe, inspired, and encouraged. So, be creative and have fun with it. I hope you have a wonderful and playful summer!

Blog author Elizabeth Farris photoElizabeth Farris currently serves as the creative specialist at Wyandot Early Childhood School. Next school year, she will be teaching kindergarten at Hopewell ECS. She looks forward to a summer of learning alongside her husband, Aaron, and her three kids, Audrey, Will, and Nora. You can connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @wykidscreate or through email at

Posted by  On May 15, 2018 at 9:09 AM 258 Comments