Lessons of Summer
Are they bored yet? A 65-day stretch out of school is a lot of summer time. After the euphoric first couple of weeks of staying up late and sleeping in, monotony may settle in pretty quickly. While boredom itself can serve as the impetus for creative play and outdoor exploration, in other circumstances it can mean kids are in pajamas in the dark playing video games at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
The debate about the annual summer break from school is an ongoing one. Critics say it’s too long. Weaker students are at risk of faltering after they’ve worked 10 months to hone academic skills, while parents may be hard-pressed to make affordable childcare arrangements. Proponents say kids’ lives are too structured already, and what they need are more unscheduled days so they can learn by roaming and romping, setting their own agendas and taking charge of their own time.
Whatever you think of the length of summer vacay, you can be sure your kids will keep right on soaking up knowledge even without a teacher and a classroom. In fact, the stretch of days through July and August can provide amazing opportunities to establish new interests, develop important skills and benefit from lessons that just don’t happen during a typical school day.
These summer learning possibilities aren’t contingent on your family’s bank account either. Seek them out and you will discover tons of fun options that are gratis or very inexpensive.
Enjoy Storytime at Rideau Hall Fridays and Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m. until August 20. This no-cost outdoor event includes reading books and participating in literacy activities and it is hosted in collaboration with Frontier College, a non-profit organization that promotes literacy.
Head for the Hill to better understand Canadian history and political processes. Tickets for guided tours of the Parliament Buildings, the Peace Tower and Memorial Chamber are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Plan your visit so you can also take in the Changing of the Guard ceremony at 10 a.m. It’s ongoing through late August.
Plan a return visit to Parliament Hill for the Sounds and Light Show. It’s definitely worth the trip. The engaging and informative presentation takes place after dark each night into early September.
In the same part of town, you can expand your knowledge of Canada’s legal system. The Supreme Court building is open daily to the end of August and there are tours during business hours.
Investigate Ottawa’s amazing museums. At the Canadian Museum of Nature (permanent galleries), Canadian Museum of History, Canadian War Museum and National Gallery of Canada, admission is free Thursday evenings. At the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum and the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, you can get in free daily between 4 and 5 p.m. Tap into the Ottawa Public Library’s museum privilege program too. If you have a library card, you can access free passes to several area museums.
Spend time at the library itself. Ottawa Public Library’s branches offer all sorts of free family programs in the summer. They range from Teen Summer Reading and Summer Saturday Family Storytime to drop-in crafts and a puppet show. You can make a trip to the library a weekly event and load up on books and movies to take home. Summer is a wonderful time to instill a love of reading and encourage literacy. If your kids are young enough, read to them. Read in the pup tent in the backyard; read with a flashlight in the fort made of blankets and couch cushions; read in the shade on a picnic blanket in the afternoon. Act out the stories or take on the voice of one of the characters and encourage the kids to assume the voices of others. See where your own version of the story will go.
Experience science in a hands-on way. As an internationally notable wetland, the Mer Bleue Bog is a fascinating spot to observe nature and talk about ecosystems. Over 7500 years old, it’s a limitless “classroom” provided by Mother Nature. And the kids will get a kick out of trekking across its interpretive boardwalk.
At the southwest end of the city, Stony Swamp offers lessons in natural history, geography, geology and more. Birds, plants, critters, trees and hiking trails—they’re all here. You’ll find interpretive exhibits and even a Wild Bird Care Centre.
At summer camp, kids learn social, physical and life skills. They also develop new passions and talents and make friends with peers in a relaxed setting. Sometimes interests nurtured at summer camp carry on into post-secondary school and a career.
Whether it’s day camp or overnight camp, learning happens naturally and often joyfully because there’s no pressure. There are no grades or report cards. No tests to study for, no projects, no homework, no stress.
And some day camps offer exceptional immersive education opportunities. Bootcamp For Brains, at Ashbury College this summer, is a skills-building initiative for girls aged 15 to 17. There’s a focus on development of skills that contribute to effective leadership. Everything from digital literacy and entrepreneurship to communications and risk analysis will be covered.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Camp is happening at Carleton University and Algonquin College. Its themes range from Minecraft to Ocean Adventures to CSI and Scooby Doo Mystery. Other instructive camp options this summer run the gamut from Spirit of Math Camp and Debate Camp to French camp and computer programming camp.
The City of Ottawa offers a huge selection of day camps, including sports, swimming, arts, leadership and specialty programs. Half-day and full-day camps, extended hours, assistance for kids with special needs and financial support are all available.