x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Skills learnt in summer make the brain sizzle

More than 2,000 children across the country have decided to learn a skill, visit new places and do charity work to keep their minds sharp this summer.

DUBAI // More than 2,000 children across the country have decided to learn a skill, visit new places and do charity work to keep their minds sharp this summer.

Pupils at Gems Education schools this month took part in a competition that asked them to commit to fun but intellectually stimulating activities. Pupils responded by signing up to classes in embroidery, hula hoop and robotics and other events such as sightseeing with their families.

The Summer Brain Sizzler challenge aims to highlight the danger of losing skills learnt throughout the school year by sitting idle in the holiday period.

"Parents consider holidays as a time to relax," said Nadia Petrossi, parental engagement manager at Gems Education.

"The goal was to make parents and children think about ways to be active to strengthen their brain power."

International research has found that children who do not read during the summer lose up to a month's worth of literacy work. Children who do not challenge themselves with mathematics-based tasks can lose two months worth of numerical work.

A study by the Rand Cooperation, a not-for-profit research organisation, found that students who attend summer programmes do not suffer and do better in school than their peers who do not attend.

Ms Petrossi agreed that summer activities can help pupils relate to their lessons. "Like a child who is studying algae in class," she said. "He suddenly remembers his family trip to the wadi where he slipped and fell off an algae-covered rock. He is able to understand colour, texture and composition much better."

Many pupils also said they wanted to donate their time to charitable causes.

Amina Fathima, 5, who won first place in the challenge, plans to collect marbles and shells and make a scrapbook to record her experiences of visits to the zoo, park and beach this summer.

Her mother, Afshan Jabeen, said she would have a "timetable of 'edutainment'".

Mrs Jabeen said: "She likes doing things with her hands so we will be doing a lot of craftwork, making pencil holders and paper flowers together. I will be restricting her TV time to a few hours in the morning."

Maurell Alex Dsouza, of Our Own English High School in Sharjah, said she wanted to master the drums and piano so "family occasions will be full of life and music".

She said: "My dad used to play the drums and even now bangs on the table. I thought: why not learn the actual thing and give him company. We could have fun together."

She said it was important that she remained focused in summer as well. "I intend to use these holidays to the fullest to learn new things."

Winners of the competition received vouchers for outdoor activities, computer courses and summer camps.

aahmed@thenational.ae