To help prevent summer learning loss, many organizations offer fun activities and resources that parents can use with their children to help their brains stay active. Below are a few that caught our attention recently.
Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit that provides schools with computer science, engineering, and biomedical science courses, asked some of its star teachers to help put together a Summer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Activities guide.
Students can lose the equivalent of up to two months of grade-level math and science skills over the summer if they don’t keep their brains active, according to the guide.
The educators who helped create the list included Kelly Wheeler, who teaches Project Lead the Way classes at the Santa Rosa Academy Charter School in the Menifee school district in Riverside County. Last year, Wheeler was named a Project Lead the Way Launch Teacher of the Year.
“STEM activities as a family give parents and children an opportunity to be curious,” Wheeler said. “Children love hands-on activities where they are given an opportunity to explore. When parents are involved, it encourages their child’s curiosity, and illustrates how STEM is important. Honestly, STEM is all around us – we just need to stop and experience it!”
Wheeler said her son, Colin, “is an innovator” who was inspired by Caine Monroy, a boy who engineered his own games out of cardboard (see number 2).
“As a family, we created our own arcade and invited family and friends over to join in the fun,” she said. “This then inspired the children to continue making their own games. I was impressed with the creativity and decided to take this event into my school. Now every year, our elementary Project Lead The Way students host a penny arcade, and all the proceeds are donated. This year, we donated to cystic fibrosis. Creating these STEM moments as a family is a great way to foster creativity, investigate an idea, and learn to problem-solve.”
Below are 10 ideas she and the other science-loving teachers suggest you check out.
- Design and build a cardboard car.
- Get inspired by 9-year-old Caine Monroy and design an arcade game. Here’s more on Caine’s project: http://cainesarcade.com.
- Tour your local water treatment facility or wastewater plant to learn about water resources and conservation.
- Visit a science or STEM-related museum and try some hands-on activities
- Create an “inventor’s box” with household materials such as cardboard tubes and string that you can use to build things such as boat that can hold 20 pennies and float in a sink.
- Design a toothbrush and write in a notebook about why your new creation is better than the one you already had.
- Download the Robot Virtual Worlds activity “Expedition Atlantis” to learn how to code and use other math skills.
- Read STEM-related books to unleash your inventive spirit, such as “The Most Magnificent Thing,” by Ashley Spires; “What Do You Do with an Idea?” by Kobi Yamada; and “Rosie Revere, Engineer,” by Andrea Beatty.
- Watch a TED Talk by Debbie Sterling, CEO and inventor of GoldieBlox construction toys for girls, to hear about her career as a female engineer and about how she inspires young girls to become engineers.
- Try out the tutorials at the MIT AppInventor website, then try the QuizMe tutorial to learn about creating lists and indexes.
Project Lead the Way encourages you to take a photo or a short video of your activity and share it on social media with the hashtag #PLTW so the organization can share it.
The California Mathematics Council, which includes math teachers and others interested in math education throughout the state, has several family resources on its website. These include: Math at Home guides in English and Spanish, informative articles about math, hands-on activities, information about hosting a “Family Math” event, and an “Early Math Learning” website with ideas to help children from birth to age 5 learn and enjoy math.
The SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Arts) Foundation has created an award-winning children’s literacy website called “Storyline Online,” which includes videos of well-known actors reading popular children’s books. The videos show illustrations while stars such as Viola Davis, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, James Earl Jones, Betty White and many others read the books.
The latest addition to the collection is “Clark the Shark,” written by Bruce Hale and read by Chris Pine, who starred in the movies, “Wonder Woman” and “Star Trek.”Pine tells the story of Clark, a boisterous shark whose rowdy personality annoys his elementary school classmates. His teacher explains that there’s a time and a place for boisterous behavior.
The book addresses childhood issues such as friendship, social skills and accepting differences, and can be used to discuss impulse control and dealing with feelings of extreme excitement with children. A supplemental curriculum guide aimed at improving comprehension and verbal and written skills accompanies each book. The “Clark the Shark” guide is aimed at 1st- through 3rd-graders and includes activities to help children think critically about some of the book’s themes, such as empathy and acceptance.
The site includes 39 free videos, such as: “Harry the Dirty Dog,” by Gene Zion; “How I Learned Geography,” by Uri Shulevitz, “Stellaluna,” by Jannell Cannon; “Strega Nona,” by Tomie dePaola; “The Rainbow Fish,” by Marcus Pfister; and “When Pegasso Met Mootisse,” by Nina Laden. New videos are added periodically.
More than 150 million children from all over the world watch the videos each year, according to the website. The foundation created the site because reading aloud to children has been shown to “improve reading, writing and communication skills, logical thinking and concentration, and general academic aptitude, as well as inspire a lifelong love of reading,” the website says.