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Preventing Summer "Brain Drain"

Sioux City, IA
Siouxland Public Media

Girls Inc. Executive Director Mandy Engel-Cartie with Tips on Keeping Youngsters in Top Academic Shape

As students across Siouxland enjoy their summer vacation, Siouxland Public Media took a closer look at the summer “Brain Drain”.  That’s when student lose some of the academic skills they learned through the school year.    

“O 74.”  

"Bingo!  Bingo!  Bingo!  We have some Bingos.”

REPORTER: “What do you think of Bingo night?”

“I really like it.  It’s fun.”

This is Bingo Night at Perry Creek Elementary School.  It’s a popular attraction a couple of weeks before the end of the school year.

Sioux City, IA
Credit Siouxland Public Media
Bingo Night at Perry Creek Elementary School

An evening of fun, adding in a bit of numbers. 

Credit Siouxland Public Media
Boettcher Family at Bingo Night

Here, the Boettcher family enjoys some quality time together.

Mom Beth and dad Brian…

“Our card isn’t doing as well Sheila.”

and three children; three-year-old Bailey, Tessa, a six-year-old Kindergartner and their oldest son who is eight and wrapping up second grade.

“My name is Easton Boettcher and I’m playing bingo.” 

“Bingo Night is awesome.  We missed it last year and we were told we missed so much fun.  So, the kids couldn’t wait to come to Bingo Night,” said Beth Boettcher.

REPORTER: “So, Dad what do you think of Bingo Night?” 

“Bingo night is great.  We had pizza and all of kids won one prize so it’s fantastic.”

REPORTER: “Are you winning?”

“I am not winning.  I picked the unlucky card.”

REPORTER: “Do you have any big plans for summer vacation?”

“We’re going to Branson, Missouri and Silver Dollar City.  We’re looking forward to that, going to shows, putt-putt golfing and go carts,” said Brian Boettcher.

“We have quite a few things planned including times we can go outdoors on the nights and the weekend,” said Beth Boettcher.

There’s also summer sports, a wedding, trips to the zoo and a bit of academics.

Credit Siouxland Public Media
Boettcher Family - Sioux City, IA

“Our kids are involved in the ‘Beyond the Bell Program’.  I like that it has an education component in the morning and in the afternoon they can cut loose and at night have movies and field trips during the day so they can retain at least a little bit of that information,” said Brian Boettcher.

“I know it is something we thought about.  After Easton’s first year I don’t know if he went set back, but we didn’t know the ‘Beyond the Bell’ program had an academic component instead of just being daycare.  We read every night.  But, sometimes I’m not sure if I know how to teach them so I can appreciate it when he can do some school time and teach him more things in the summer.  I know that’s a time kids can retreat in their learning and we don’t want that to happen with our kids,” said Beth Boettcher.

Educational experts say learning loss does impact students when away from class.  

Credit Siouxland Public Media
Principal Amy Denney

“It is something that does happen.  Kids lose the skills they have been practicing.  They have been practicing them all year, every day.  It’s hard when the summer happens and kids forget.  And, that’s normal for kids to forget.  My name is Amy Denney.  I’m the principal at Perry Creek Elementary and Clark Early Childhood Center.  I have been the principal here for three years, but I have been in education for 20 years.  My mom was a teacher, my grandma was a teacher so education was something that I knew I wanted to be in the field since I was five.”

REPORTER:  “What advice would you give parents to keep their children educated in the summer?”


“The summertime is really an important time because we look at our data year after year we see a summer slide every single year.  Even students that attend summer school or parents involve them in tutoring of some sort that just helps them to maintain.  Unless you’re going to school full time with the rigor of learning that’s taking place during the school year typically not a lot of progress is made during the summer.”

“But it’s not time wasted.  I think children developmentally need to play and be outside and spend time with their families.  There is so much learning that can happen outside of the classroom and I hope parents and children can take advantage of those times.”

“If you cook you can work on fractions there are so many skills.  You can work on social sciences, geography.  You can look at family recipes and ask what part of the country did that recipe come from?  You can look at the different science components of cooking.”

“If you travel there are geography skills that can be learned, there are math skills by following miles or reading a map.  There are all those natural skills that you can work on and support students in by just doing natural things.”   

Credit Siouxland Public Media
Perry Creek Elementary and Clark Early Learning Center Principal Amy Denney

“There’s free access to library books.  It’s always a plus if you can get your kids reading over the summer.  Some of our parents say some our students have found joy by just reading over the summer and it’s something families are able to share.”

“There’s just so many great opportunities for the summer.  It’s really endless to keep learning going. It’s also important to spend family quality time together too.”

Principal Denney says students who don’t do any work on improving education out of class can lose 15 to 20 percent proficiency.

“Our students who have limited access to resources those families do struggle.  The student data does show those students who don’t have access to taking a family trip or maybe going to the public library or families who chose not to access those things those students score typically do reflect that they have a greater gain to make up.”

“For students in poverty there is a greater need there for nutrition over the summer.  It could be a lack of resources.  Some of our families move around a lot because of housing reasons.  That’s a lot of chaos and turmoil for kids so naturally all of their energy is used on survival.  They’re trying to make sure their family stays intact so learning isn’t a priority for them.”

Principal Denney also has plans for the next few months.

“I always read like to read during the summer.  I try to learn some new things and read for enjoyment.”

“You need O 65.”

“O 65”

“You just won on both cards.  Yell, Bingo.  Bingo!  You won on both cards!”

As luck finds its way to the Boettcher family on Bingo night, summer learning gives all young people a destination for future success. 

“If you did not win a bingo tonight come up and pick a prize.”

Summer break ends for students in the Sioux City Community Schools on Friday, August 23.

Sheila Brummer returns to her radio roots as a Reporter/Special Projects Producer for Siouxland Public Media KWIT-KOJI.