As a parent, you see summer break as a learning opportunity.
Depending on your region and school district, your child’s summer vacation can range anywhere from six weeks to three months. Of course, the mental break from classroom learning is welcome, but keeping your child’s mind active is crucial to ongoing education. If put aside, it can cost them (and you) long-term angst.
Summer learning loss has been a topic of research dating back to 1906. And to this day, data suggests that the average student’s achievement levels fall significantly when school’s out of session.
In fact, every summer costs children about a month of in-classroom learning. Not only does this put the student at a disadvantage when they return to school, but it forces them to play catch-up to their teachers' expectations. This can result in poorer grades and a loss of confidence.
Although hiring a private tutor may be a suitable option for some children, for others a few engaging activities can do wonders to ensure forward progress.
To help you get started, here are six STEM-inspired learning adventures to do with your child this summer.
1. Create a summer scrapbook
Ask your child to create a summer journal and the idea might be met with groans. But a summer scrapbook is appealing to kids of any age! Suggest that they include pictures, photos, old tickets, leaflets, dried flowers, and so on to make the book visually appealing and something to be proud of. If they’re of writing age, ask them to include a two or three-sentence description for each collected item. Sneaking in some extra grammar and essay practice is a great way to set them up for success in the fall.
2. Plan a family outing
A family outing for a middle or high schooler can be a bore, mostly because they’re often made to do what you want to do. Instead, leave it up to them to plan. Have him or her consider departure/arrival times, budget, transport, activities and perhaps even places to eat. Have them do all the organizing, from purchasing the tickets to making the reservations. This is a great way to spend quality time together while also getting your child to use logic, math and writing to plan the perfect family daycation — and feel empowered doing so.
3. Go geocaching
Geocaching is an incredibly popular trend right now, and it’s super fun to boot! Geocaching helps kids get physically active, generates the excitement of a treasure hunt, and is a great way to explore geography, history, social studies, science and math. If they’re enthusiastic about the activity, they can create and register their own geocaches for others to discover. Popular geocaches are often located at or close to places of historical or geographical importance so you can double-down on the educational aspect in one trip.
4. Get cooking
Cooking is fun and can also be highly educational. Your children will be oblivious to the fact that they’re learning school and life skills while making food for your family to enjoy. Examples include reading and following step-by-step instructions, measuring ingredients, understanding kitchen safety, and even learning about the world and its cultures with international recipes. Want to take it a step further? Challenge your child to write shopping lists, prepare a budget, and adhere to both at the store.
5. Learn about birds
Nature has so many things to offer us, and one thing it does well is to create an abundance of inexpensive learning activities. Have your kids design a bird feeder after researching which seeds and other foods attract birds. Craft it, set it up together in the yard and enjoy watching the robins, blue jays and sparrows feed and interact. Make a naturalist’s journal and help your children record what they see in tallies, pictures, descriptions or all of the above. This simple bird-watching activity helps your children practice two of the most fundamental scientific concepts: curiosity and observation.
6. Design a fantasy bedroom
Have your child spend an afternoon putting some of their creative and technical skills to use to improve their living space. If they’re old enough, get some graph paper and show them how to measure and draw their room to scale. As your child maps out their new and improved space, get them thinking about the type of furniture they need (and don’t need), what kinds of storage they require, and where and how everything is going to fit. It’s a great way of improving freehand or mechanical drawing while allowing them to explore their creativity. If they love this activity, set them loose pretending to design other rooms just for fun!
Keeping your kids’ mind active and expanding their knowledge takes little effort and pays dividends beyond the next school year. You may even find yourself re-experiencing that feeling of summer excitement and celebration.
There are hundreds of ways to go about this. Let’s inspire each other! Share your tips and stories below.