Sustaining Student Engagement during Summer Break

boys learning to surf

For many students, school is a place where they feel safe, secure, and successful. Whether it’s an identified group of students you are targeting or students who voluntarily want to attend school during the break, a summer engagement program can be a great benefit to all students.

Organizing events for the summer would certainly need to be coordinated with your organization’s leadership and supported by various departments. Consider asking for volunteers from faculty and staff, parents, community members, former students, and student organizations. Consider requesting donations from local businesses and organizations if necessary.

Consider having Strands of classes/activities to meet the various needs of your students. Below are some suggested Strands and activities that you may consider:

Academic Strand (focused on academic skills and concepts)

  • Board Games – Board games can be used to teach/reinforce academic content and skills. Games that use dice, cards, etc. can be used in a variety of ways to help students learn about probability, sequence, patterns, etc.
  • Academic Basketball Tournament – Incorporate academic drills and concepts by giving students opportunities to earn free throws/points when answering correctly. This can be done in small teams, which also helps students learn teamwork, trust, and cooperation. Athletic tournaments can be conducted in a variety of sports like tennis, football, soccer, etc. with academic content incorporated into the scoring. Students that like competition and sports may be drawn to participate in these type activities.


Experiential Learning Strand (focused on interactive activities and real-life experience examples)

  • Learning Trips – Give students the opportunity to learn by performing activities and reflecting on them as well as immersing themselves in them. Learning trips can be a powerful educational experience. Getting students to experience a concept by observing, participating, interacting, and evaluating can provide students a full perspective of a concept.One example is taking students to the zoo and formulating a scavenger hunt to look for various characteristics of animals and their classification after preparing them with some basic classroom instruction. Another example may be a trip to the grocery where students would gather items for recipes or ingredients that could be mixed to create safe chemical experiments for science or math estimation, etc.
  • Low Element Activities – Try introducing another form of experiential learning using low element ropes course activities focusing on group initiatives that explore problem solving, leadership, and group interaction. These activities can be performed indoors or outdoors and typically require little or no equipment.

    The object of this activity is to move the entire group from one large platform to the other. The challenge lies in 1). the positioning of a smaller platform in the middle connected to the larger platforms by two boards and 2). the rules that jumping is not allowed and no one may touch the ground.

    Log Jam

    The object of this activity is to move the entire group from one large platform to the other. The challenge lies in 1). the positioning of a smaller platform in the middle connected to the larger platforms by two boards and 2). the rules that jumping is not allowed and no one may touch the ground.


Life Skills Strand (focused on real-life skills and experiences that help improve a student’s quality of life)

  • Peer Mediation – Peer mediation can help students who sometimes encounter conflict with other students, adults, and family members. Peer Mediation is a program that teaches students techniques to resolve conflicts between two parties by reaching an agreement/consensus to resolve the conflict and deter future conflicts. There are a variety of programs that can be purchased/acquired that teach the fundamental principles of mediation and help build a team of mediators at your school that can be utilized throughout the school year to resolve conflicts. There are a number of programs and guides available online to help start a peer mediation program on your campus.
  • Community Business Services Classes – Invite local businesses to hold classes in their areas of expertise for students to learn more about various vocations and careers. For example, invite a local restaurant owner/chef to hold a cooking class where students can learn to make or cook a dish that they can make at home on their own. Invite a local jewelry maker to teach students to make custom jewelry or a hair/makeup professional to teach their techniques to students.For older students, it may be beneficial to have a finance/tax expert hold classes on financial responsibility and tax preparation or have an expert auto mechanic teach basic vehicle maintenance.

Summer can be a great time to help students stay engaged and help them grow as students and individuals in a fun and safe environment. By offering a variety of activities that appeal to various students, a summer engagement program may be just what they need to help them get a head start to the upcoming school year. Have a Great Summer!


About the Author
Roland Espericueta

Roland Espericueta

Roland Espericueta has over 20 years of experience in Special Education and Educational Administration. He taught in Special Education in the San Antonio Independent School District as well as the Northside Independent School District, where he also served as a Campus Administrator and Coordinator of Behavior Programs. In 2009, Roland joined the Review360 team as an Implementation Specialist. In this role, he trains teachers and administrators on using Review360 and provides continuous behavioral support to partner districts. Roland also brings his extensive expertise to The Behavior Matters Newsletter as a regular contributor.