As we approach summer vacation, many parents find themselves facing a dilemma – How do they find a fun way to keep their kids sharp academically during the summer?
I’m working with Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a nonprofit organization that provides a transformative learning experience for K-12 students and teachers across the U.S., in more than 8,000 schools nationwide. PLTW has collaborated with some of the best teachers in the country and come up with a list of educational activities for kids to enjoy doing this summer!
From creating their own science experiments, to making race cars out of cardboard boxes, to reading about famous inventors, the possibilities are endless.
Summer STEM Activities
PLTW teachers’ key reasons why to be apart of STEM:
April Moon (@aprilsunshine77), Robert and Patricia Kern National Teacher of the Year – Waxahachie, TX, PLTW Engineering Master Teacher
1. Take a field trip to your local wastewater plant and / or water treatment facility. Tours are usually free but need to be scheduled beforehand. This is a great way for kids (and parents) to learn about water management processes and what we can do to help conserve water and properly care for our water resources. Water management systems involve many fields, including, but not limited to, biology, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and environmental engineering.
2. With so many products now being manufactured, many students do not get much experience with hand tools. One great summer project is to design and build a small structure with your kids, such as a dog house or a tree house. There are many design plans online that you can study before creating and building your own design!
3. Want a fun and educational adventure for the whole family? Visit a glass blowing studio to see demonstrations and / or take classes. This is a great way to experience the beauty of combining STEM with art through a creative manufacturing process!
4. Girls: Watch the TED Talk about Debbie Sterling (inventor and CEO of GoldieBLOX) about her journey as a female engineer and her quest to inspire young girls to pursue engineering.
Kelly Wheeler (@kwheeler_kelly), PLTW Launch Teacher of the Year – Menifee, CA
1. Roly Poly Adventures: Science Experiments with Pill Bugs! My daughter Madison is obsessed with roly polies! I found a great blog with wonderful science experiments to do with her over the summers using the Pill Bug!
2. Marble Run (Purchased Product) – My kids love the Marble Run. The set comes with curves, chutes, and wheels for the kids to design amazing marble runs!
3. Cardboard Boxes! There are so many fun things you can create with cardboard boxes to inspire the inner engineer in your child!
- a. Design and build a car out of cardboard. Families could park their cars in the living room and enjoy a family night watching a movie in their own drive-in!
- b. Design an arcade game! Get some inspiration from a 9-year-old boy named Caine who created his very own cardboard arcade. http://cainesarcade.com
- c. Create a miniature golf course. Q-Tips and paper towel and toilet paper rolls work great!
4. Inventors Box! My son Colin who is 10 loves to invent and create at home. This activity is inspired by him.
By having a “Tinker” Box at a child’s disposal it will encourage them to use their imagination and natural curiosity to design and build, not to mention it can also store all their items for building. I have a couple of rules for my kiddos at home: if it’s in the box, they can use it how they see fit in their designs. However, if there is something they want to use that is not in the box, they must ask for permission.
Items to include in the box: small boxes, toilet paper and paper towel tubes, yarn, egg cartons, empty butter tubs, broken toys, old toy parts, tape of all kinds, empty cereal boxes, white glue, glue sticks, paper clips, string, left over craft materials, construction paper, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, cotton balls, and any recycled materials around the house. The list could really go on and on. Make sure all materials are safe for children to use.
One fun idea for your child’s tinker box is to design a boat that can hold 10 to 20 pennies and then try to float it in the sink, bathtub, or small pool.
5. Books are always great ways to introduce students to STEM and their inner inventor. Here are a few of my kids’ favorites.
- a. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Sprires
- b. What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada
- c. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
Beth Fox (@bfox01), PLTW Gateway Teacher of the Year – Lenoir, NC
1. The Engineering Encounters Bridge Design Contest is an Internet-based competition that provides middle school and high school students with a realistic, engaging introduction to engineering. While the contest for 2016 has ended, you can still download the free software and try your hand at bridge design to get a leg up on next year’s competition!
2. Robot Virtual Worlds – Expedition Atlantis! Download this fun activity to learn how to code, incorporate math skills, and expand on your proportional reasoning skills!
Chris Hurd (@CazHSTechLabs), PLTW Engineering Teacher of the Year – Cazenovia, NY
1. Our local university, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), offers a “RoboCamp” that is great for students. They actually have a week long robotics camp, as well as weekend programs. Look up a university or college program like it close to you. What kid wouldn’t like to go away for the weekend or the week and delve into the world of robotics?
2. Attend a local “Rocket Launch”! See rockets large and small take to the skies on a monthly basis at a local rocket club’s launch site. The Syracuse rocket club hosts a monthly launch and invites the public to come and watch, and even build one and launch it with them! They meet monthly, and launch monthly, and their members come into my classroom for Tech Club to work with my students on a regular basis. I have a group of students right now building a 6’ tall, two-stage rocket that requires six engines and a license to launch!
3. Visit a local science museum or STEM-based museum to keep students’ interest piqued all summer long. Most have daily activities and lots of hands-on displays as well as an I-MAX theater.
Darwin Shorters (@MrShorters), PLTW Computer Science Teacher of the Year – Charleston, SC
1. Try your hand at the various tutorials on the MIT App Inventor website. Basic tutorials are great to start, and once you have a basic understanding, I suggest the QuizMe tutorial to help students understand the concept of List and how to use indexes to iterate through them.
Dr. Julye Adams (@DrJulyeAdams), PLTW Biomedical Science Teacher of the Year – Georgetown, KY
1. STRETCH your body. Use stretching techniques to become more flexible. Then research the changes in your ligaments and muscles that have to happen for you to become more flexible. Record your observations.
2. Design your own toothbrush. What do you wish could be better about your current toothbrush? What issues do you see with it? Design a better version and test it. Record the steps you took to identify the problem, design a new toothbrush, and your final observations in a notebook.
3. Investigate a “crime.” Ask your parents to set up a mock crime scene. Then make observations and deductions from the scene to determine what happened.
4. Collect water samples from different areas in your house and backyard. Look at small drops with a high magnification magnifying glass. Do you see anything moving? Then research the various things contained in water.
There are endless activities to engage in. Take advantage of them right here! For more information about PTLW visit https://www.pltw.org/