- Associated Press - Monday, May 12, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - With summer break just around the corner, parents are scrambling to find ways to keep children occupied the next three months.

One new offering this year is Brain Chase, a six-week online academic challenge created by an Austin couple, Allan and Heather Staker.

Designed for second- through eighth-graders, Brain Chase is built to resemble a global treasure hunt. The goal, Allan Staker said, is to make summertime learning fun, rather than a chore.

The Stakers said their experiences with their own five children helped shape the program, which came together in less than a year.

Like most of our conversations, this one was about our five kids,” Allan Staker told the Austin American-Statesman (https://bit.ly/1ldheRS ) “It was late last summer, and they were each starting to show signs of the ‘summer slide’ - forgetting their routines, spending too much time on video games - things like that.

“We started brainstorming ways to motivate the kids to use some best-in-class online learning programs. Before long we had sketched out a great summer program . and we realized that we had something that could help students everywhere.”

A big part of Brain Chase’s appeal is the $10,000 grand prize buried somewhere on Earth. Participants who complete required assignments in math, reading, writing and other subjects will get access to animated clips that contain clues and the first person to correctly guess the prize’s location gets to hop aboard a jet to claim their loot.

“We knew our own kids wouldn’t do it unless it was really fun,” Allan Staker said. “That’s when we added the animated story, a decoder ring and compass, the exotic travel and the mysterious golden treasure. We wanted to make this irresistible. We basically set out to make the summer blockbuster of education.”

The program costs $199 for the first child and $100 for each additional child. Registration is underway now at brainchase.com. The response has already exceeded anything the Stakers say they could’ve imagined.

“I think all parents understand that summer learning loss is a problem, and the idea of an online learning solution really resonates with people,” Allan Staker said. “We’ve been getting emails from all over the world and the comment I hear the most is, ‘I wish something like this were around when I was a kid.’ “

Most parents who have enrolled their children in Brain Chase are pairing it with other summertime activities - and that’s exactly what the Stakers said they hoped would happen.

“Brain Chase should never be a standalone offering,” Allan Staker said. “It’s designed to complement - and even facilitate - other summer activities. We want kids to experience all of the great activities that summer has to offer. They should get outside, attend sports camps, travel, spend time with the family and even create adventures of their own with their Brain Chase compass and decoder ring.”


Information from: Austin American-Statesman, https://www.statesman.com

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