Stories of positive summer enrichment experiences are bountiful in middle school. My work as a high school counselor found me often privy to such stories from high school students reflecting on a certain noteworthy experience during middle school that greatly impacted them personally. Whether as part of a chat explaining their selection of elective classes for the semester or as part of the college application process meetings, students almost always credited summer programs or overnight school trips in middle school as a marked turning point in their lives.
It is extensively documented that during the summer, in the absence of school, learning regresses. And sure, we know that being away from home offers the alternative to socialize with different kids outside of school (yay!) and to be away from siblings (double yay!). Students say these factors reign as one of the best parts of deciding to go away but they are simply amazed by what else they get by going and doing. They report an increased sense of maturity and accomplishment by being away from mom and dad, an exploration of new perspectives, lifelong friendships made, interests nurtured, and passions ignited. In my experience at the high school level, students who begin engaging in enrichment in middle school seemed truly better off for it. So, are there better or ideal summer programs for middle school students?
Finding Summer Programs for Middle School Students
Let them follow their interests:
There is simply something special about being 13-years-old and away from the rigor of school when it is swapped with the opportunity to pursue a personal curiosity surrounded by other kids with the same or similar interests. A middle schooler interested in theatre, robotics, or say expository writing is suddenly spending all day with like minds and enthusiastic instructors passionate for the topic. So it’s simple—let your middle schoooler pursue their interests when picking a summer opportunity within your parental parameters (e.g., distance, cost, duration, quality).
There is so much available that will meet both you and your child’s needs it will likely be hard to pick! For example, a child interested in learning to fly can do so at the Adventures in Aviation-Learn to Fly, Be a Pilot program at the University of South Carolina or a lover of languages can pursue German, Arabic, or French at Middlebury College. Still not sure about sending your child away? There are even more benefits to letting them go.
The road to higher learning:
Enrichment opportunities in middle school seem to offer students that unique opportunity to pave the way to higher learning—both toward high school and yes, even college. Courses offered at programs include material typically not covered in school and allow students to go more in-depth. Like the high school and college experience, enrichment programs offer similar opportunities: to be taken seriously, to learn among other motivated students, and of course, to learn by doing! For some students this means the realization that perhaps musical theatre studied right in NYC is not for them after all or the hope and dream of being a doctor is further solidified.
Introduction to campus life:
At Stanford Summer Institute, students experience living right on campus while pursuing interests like creative writing, mathematics, or earth sciences. This unique experience of living on of campus life gives your child a glimpse of their future as a college student in an idyllic learning environment. There is no doubt they will come home with swag from the campus bookstore and wear or display it proudly throughout the year.
TeenLife’s exceptional free directory online can point you and your child to the multitude of options available including a filter by grade and information on programs that offer some scholarship, merit aid or discounts. There is some serious fun to be had this summer. The hardest part will be in choosing! Good luck!