For most of the northern New Jersey area, school is over or there are just a few days left in the 2019-20 school year. Families are looking toward a fun-filled summer but it’s still clouded by the uncertainty of COVID-19. Most parents are concerned about next school year, the impact of distance learning, and its long-term effects on students as they head into the next school year.

Summer usually comes with a bit of hesitation for parents who are concerned with their child regressing over the summer, known as the “summer slide”. Summer 2020 is even more of a worry as parents are bracing themselves for perhaps more distance learning in the fall.

As CEO of a non-profit, youth organization, I urge all parents to get their children immersed in activities this summer to pique their curiosity about the world around them and foster a love of learning. I am a firm believer that learning can happen anywhere – in the classroom, at home, or outside.  As New Jersey has started to reopen, try to take advantage of some of our beautiful state’s resources.

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There are many local sites that tell of the rich history of our state and nation. Visit Morristown National Historical Park where George Washington’s troops camped during the Revolutionary War. In addition to seeing history come alive, many walking trails give the family a chance to get outside, exercise, and see some wildlife.

Head to the Great Falls National Historic Park in Paterson, where the Native American Lenni-Lenape tribe were among the first visitors to the Great Falls which they used as a fishing and camping area. The site was known as Totowa Falls when three of its most famous visitors, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, stopped there following the Battle of Monmouth for a picnic on July 10, 1778. That picnic proved pivotal in the history of Paterson and the nation. While visiting the Great Falls, talk a short walk to Hinchliffe Stadium, which opened in 1932 and became the home base for the New York Black Yankees. It's the only remaining Negro League stadium in the mid-Atlantic states.

A monument to Rosie the Riveter is in Wood-Ridge and a visit there can jumpstart learning about the millions of women who supported manufacturing efforts during World War 2. 

Thinking of heading to the beach? Many seaside towns have a rich history as well, especially Cape May. Outdoors activities are abundant- from boating, fishing, swimming, biking, and hiking. Children and adults can learn about the local marine life and animals of the salt marshes and coastal areas of our state.

Many drive-through zoos and “safaris” are opening to offer families a chance to enjoy animals native to our area and some exotic creatures from all over the world. Many local zoos have adapted to the quarantine by going virtual to offer educational videos and up-close looks at the habitats, behaviors, and lives of animals and wildlife that are around us.

In addition, many youth organizations are offering summer virtual programming, activities by mail, and fun YouTube experiences for the whole family. Armed with items easily found in the home, these activities can pique a child’s curiosity and engage a child in activities that foster learning, exploration and creativity.

Summer book clubs and library programs also offer a chance for children to strengthen the reading and writing skills which are important for every grade.

In New Jersey we are looking forward to a safe reopening of our state and a return to some sort of normalcy. I know we will see more opportunities to enjoy and support local organizations and businesses who want and need to return to normal operations. As you slide into summer, remember that the summer slide for our children can be avoided by some thoughtful planning and creativity.