Throw Away the Summer Reading Packet! Fun Summer Activities Kids will Love

Summer is a time for exploration, adventure, fun and freedom. However, “playtime” is learning time for elementary and secondary students. Whether you are a teacher, summer camp counselor or caregiver, what your kids play will determine what they learn. As a teacher, I was always against lengthy summer assignment packets that kept kids sitting indoors. More meaningful learning can happen outdoors, in real life scenarios, with genuine enthusiasm. Don’t waste summer with a traditional packet of reading and math questions, or a summer spent playing video games and watching television. Try the projects I shared with my students’ parents to encourage children to explore their environments and communities with summer activities for Math, ELA, Science, History and Service Learning.

Science Summer Activities

On the last day of school, I asked each of my students to bring in two glass jars or plastic containers. In class, I provided dirt and seedlings. Every student planted a small cherry tomato seed and chives. Both of these plants are easy to grow on a bright windowsill or small front stoop. We sent every child home with their seedlings and a one-page activity guide with suggested extension activities. Gardening is the perfect summer activity to teach environmental science, biology, health, responsibility, self-reliance and service learning. Students can witness germination and photosynthesis to explore the role of seeds, sunlight, water, soil nutrients and minerals, and pollinators. They can also gain a sense of accomplishment and independence as they tend to their plant and watch it grow and thrive. Teachers and parents can ad a history component by discussing agricultural civilizations, victory gardens or the dust bowl. Parents with the time and resources may extend the project by planting more vegetables in a raised bed or small garden plot. The possibilities are endless if students choose to volunteer at a local community garden and other volunteer-based garden and park initiatives.

Math Summer Activities

Instead of a boring math packet, I sent students home with a community service fundraiser guide to promote math, entrepreneurial skills, service learning and research skills. I encouraged students to organize a charitable lemonade stand, bake sale, pizza party, picnic, barbecue or ice cream bar. Fundraising events are a fun and rewarding way for students to practice math and business skills while giving back to a charity of their choice. Students practice basic addition, subtraction and multiplication, as well as ratios and percentages as they calculate expenses versus earnings. Students set a budget and income goal and then track their progress to meet short and long term milestones. Our school advertised a school-wide challenge to encourage competitive students to host as many fundraisers as possible. The student who hosted the most fundraisers by the end of the summer received an “Award for Community Service and Entrepreneurship.” We also hosted a charitable pizza party in their honor, with proceeds donated to their favorite charity. Why not spearhead a school-wide entrepreneurial challenge? You can also remind reluctant students, as I did, that fundraisers are a fun way to earn required community service hours and enhance their resumes. Download the Free School Fundraiser Product below for effortless summer activities. As students research important causes they care about and coordinate events, they will build life-long skills that extend far beyond the classroom.

ELA Summer Activities

As an English teacher, I always assigned summer reading to prevent the summer slide. I also promoted creative ELA activities to encourage students to explore nature and their imaginations. A perfect nature-themed art and creative writing activity is called “Sights and Sounds in My Neighborhood.” I challenged students to explore their community and natural spaces with a piece of paper and the flat edge of a crayon. Encourage your students to do the same. First, students collect leaves and pine needles. Second, they lay the leaves flat and evenly spaced under the paper. Third, they rub the crayon over the paper. The lines and edges of the various leaves will appear on the paper to form a collage of natural textures.

Once students are done with their leaf rubbings, they should sit outside and jot down one to two words of passing conversation and single word observations of their surroundings, such as, “cloud, breeze, birdsong, rustling, rain, horns, train, laughter, etc.” Students should write the words randomly over the page of leaf rubbings to create a poetic medley of colors and words. This activity is the perfect introduction to both poetry and mindfulness.

History Summer Activities

Students often feel that history is disconnected from their reality. As an English teacher, I partnered with the Social Studies department to encourage a living history project. We sent letters home to parents to encourage students to interview their grandparents or “elderly” family members about their memories of major historical events, wars, technological advances and more. A fun way for students to engage in these conversations is through a “then and now” game. Students can refer to anything in the “now” such as cars, phones, education, marriage, grocery stores, cooking, restaurants, television and more. Grandparents then share stories about how life was different “then” – from World War II to the Civil Rights Movement to life before Google – students will begin to appreciate how much has changed. Students can also interview family members to create a family tree or map illustrating when and where their family lived throughout history. While we organized this project in the last weeks of school, it serves as a perfect summer history activity when families often travel to spend time together. Our families expressed gratitude for this project as it truly encouraged more mutual respect, understanding and interest between grandchildren and grandparents of all ages.

Throw away the boring summer packets and encourage students to practice real-life math, science, history and ELA skills that also promote emotional intelligence and service learning. This summer, allow students to play as they enthusiastically practice academic skills and form lasting memories.

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