Why Do Students Get Summers Off?

iStock
iStock

It’s commonly believed that school kids started taking summers off in the 19th century so they’d have time to work on the farm. Nice as that story is, it isn’t true. Summer vacation has little to do with tilling fields and more to do with sweaty, rich city kids playing hooky—and their sweaty, rich parents.

Before the Civil War, farm kids never had summers off. They went to school during the hottest and coldest months and stayed home during the spring and fall, when crops needed to be planted and harvested. Meanwhile, city kids hit the books all year long—summers included. In 1842, Detroit’s academic year lasted 260 days!

But as cities got denser, they got hotter. Endless lanes of brick and concrete transformed urban blocks into kilns, thanks to the “urban heat island effect.” That’s when America’s swelling middle and upper class families started hightailing it to the cooler countryside. And that caused a problem. School attendance wasn’t mandatory back then, and classrooms were being left half-empty each summer. Something had to give.

Legislators, in one of those if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em moments, started arguing that kids should get summers off anyway. It helped that, culturally, leisure time was becoming more important. With the dawn of labor unions and the eight-hour workday, working adults were getting more time to themselves than ever before. Advocates for vacation time also argued (incorrectly) that the brain was a muscle, and like any muscle, it could suffer injuries if overused. From there, they argued that students shouldn’t go to school year-round because it could strain their brains. To top it off, air conditioning was decades away, and city schools during summertime were miserable, half-empty ovens.

So by the turn of the century, urban districts had managed to cut about 60 schooldays from the most sweltering part of the year. Rural schools soon adopted the same pattern so they wouldn’t fall behind. Business folks obviously saw an opportunity here. The summer vacation biz soon ballooned into what is now one of the country’s largest billion-dollar industries.

New Trapper Keeper Game Lets You Relive the Glory Days of Adolescence

Big G Creative
Big G Creative

Eighties and '90s kids know that there was nothing cooler than carrying around a Trapper Keeper, a colorful binder that let you show off a bit of your personal style.

Turns out, Trapper Keepers still exist, but they're not as prevalent as they were a few decades ago. That could be about to change, though, as ACCO (the company that makes the Keepers) has partnered with board game publisher Big G Creative to bring the school supply back to a new generation of students—and their parents—in the form of a card game called, what else, the Trapper Keeper Game.

Trapper Keeper

"The game challenges players to school the competition by collecting cards with the most points and stashing them in their Trapper Keeper® folders,” according to a press release. "Cards include homework, quizzes, parent signatures, report cards, detention slips, notes from classmates, and field trip slips. After the last bell card is played by the assigned Teacher’s Pet, the players tally up doodles and points to determine the winner.”

All of the game's components are stashed away in an authentic Trapper Keeper, which makes it a fun blast from the past for parents. "The game’s authentic Trapper Keeper® makes it a fun conversation piece, giving families the opportunity to share memories of their elementary and high school days," Shannon Swindle, Big G Creative's product and communications manager, said in a press statement.

The game, which takes just 25 minutes to complete, is designed for two to five players ages 8 and up and is available exclusively in Target stores nationwide. It’s available in three designs—rainbow unicorn, palm tree sunset, and psychedelic outer space—and includes 81 school paper cards, 11 bell cards, five mini Trapper Keeper folders, a teacher’s pet marker, score pad, and pencil.

For adults, it’s a great way to take a stroll down memory lane without having to relive the horrors that come with being a teenager.

General Mills' Box Tops for Education Program Is Going Digital

Photoboyko/iStock via Getty Images
Photoboyko/iStock via Getty Images

In 1996, General Mills began adding redemption offers to its line of cereals. Named Box Tops for Education, the program allowed consumers to clip the offer from the tops of products like Cheerios and forward them to their child’s school, which could redeem each slip for 10 cents; that money was then used to buy school supplies and fund educational events. In the past two decades, the cardboard-based program has paid out nearly $914 million to schools nationwide. Now, it’s getting a digital upgrade.

General Mills is introducing a new app that will allow people collecting box tops to photograph or scan their receipts instead. After buying a participating General Mills product, consumers can submit their proof of purchase by capturing the receipt. The app will automatically donate 10 cents to the school of their choice. Districts typically use the funds for things like iPads, playground equipment, and parties or trips.

Participants will have 14 days from the time they purchase a product to submit their receipt. The company eventually plans to phase out the offer from boxes. Until then, consumers will be free to submit the physical clipping and the receipt, doubling the value of the purchase.

The move to the app has not been universally praised. On the official Box Tops for Education Facebook page, some users have complained that scanning their receipts might disclose to General Mills their consumer spending habits. Others believe that contributors who don’t have smartphones will simply give up on the program. But the move was greeted with relief by others, as snipping the analog box tops can be time-consuming. The offers had to be cut cleanly and packaged in baggies of no more than 50 tops each. Organizers were left to sort through submitted box tops, which could number in the thousands at some schools.

The app is available for iPhone or Android users and can be downloaded via links on the General Mills Box Tops for Education website.

[h/t South Florida Sun Sentinel]

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