School may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean learning has to! In fact, it is vital that it doesn’t. When students let their brains take a break over the summer, they can lose the equivalent of two months of their grade-level math and reading skills. To combat summer learning loss and keep those STEM skills fresh over the summer, Project Lead The Way put together a list of super simple (and FUN!) STEM activities you can encourage your students to do over summer break.

  1. Create a discovery jar. Sit down with your child at the beginning of the summer and brainstorm all of the questions or ideas your student is curious about. Maybe it is why grass is green or how space travel started. Or how many varieties of leaves exist on the trees in the yard. Then put all of the questions into a mason jar. Pull one out each day for your child to research and explore. PLTW Director of Assessment Claudia Guerere (@ClaudiaGuerere) recommends this activity, which she says engages kids’ natural curiosity and discovery.
  2. Do try it at home! Matt Arnold (@ArnoldSTEM), PLTW instructional specialist, is a big fan of the Lemelson Center’s collection of ‘Do Try This at Home!’ activities, through which students develop their innovation and creativity. Try one of these free and fun activities.
  3. Keep their math skills sharp. Bennett Brown (@BennettBrownIA), PLTW director of curriculum and instruction for computer science, prefers IXL.com, which offers grade-based math activities that feel more like fun than practice.
  4. Bug out! Did you know that insects outnumber humans 200 million to one? No matter where you live, insects are a vital part of your community and play an important role in everything from recycling waste to helping plants spread pollen. Discover what bugs live in your neighborhood, and try to identify those you haven’t seen before.
  5. Explore computer science.You don’t need to be a professional to create computer Apps! Help your student learn basic computer science principles with these easy-to-use computer science platforms. PLTW’s computer science curriculum developers recommend these resources:
    • Scratch Jr. (PreK-3) – Scratch Jr. is a free App available on both iPad and Android tablets that allows even the youngest students to learn to code.
    • Scratch (grades 3-9) – Scratch is a free platform for students to program interactive stories, games, and animations. All you need is a laptop and creativity.
    • App Inventor (grades 5+) – This platform allows students to create their own Apps in less than an hour. To use, you’ll need two devices: a Web browser on computer, as well as an Android device. Both must be able to access the same wireless Internet network.
    • Tynker (grades 4-5) – Tynker is a blocks-based programming platform available on desktops, laptops, and tablets that helps students learn to code. Both free and paid memberships are available.
    • DroidScript – DroidScript lets students of all skill levels easily and quickly write Apps for Android using JavaScript. Use a PC and an Android phone, tablet, or Smart Watch. Both must be connected to the same wireless Internet network.
    • Lightbot – Lightbot is an educational video game for learning software programming concepts. Paid versions ($2.59-$4.99) exist for both Apple and Android tablets, as well as Windows and Mac devices.
  6. Feel the beat! Learn how different activities affect your heart rate with this fun activity from Rachel Allard, PLTW’s director of curriculum and instruction for PLTW Biomedical Science. Teach your child how to measure his or her resting heart rate, and then collect it at different points throughout the day to learn how quiet versus physically active tasks change their heart rate. Find a helpful guide here.
  7. Bake! It’s one of the best ways to teach young children math and science. Work on their math vocabulary and measurement skills as you measure out ingredients. And explore where ingredients come from, or how solids and liquids transform during baking for a basic science lesson. Then reward them with a chocolate chip cookie or a Rice Krispies® treat!
  8. Explore architecture and public works! @BennettBrownIA recommends taking children on a fieldtrip to your local infrastructure facilities – the waste water treatment plan, electric plant, or manufacturing plant – to learn about civil engineering and architecture. Most do free tours if you call ahead.
  9. Sharpen their problem-solving skills! PBS Kids offers a great resource full of problem-solving games for young students. PLTW Director of Curriculum and Instruction Vanessa Stratton (@Vanessa_PLTW) enjoys these with her own children.
  10. Go to camp! The Engineering Education Service Center is a great resource for a list of summer engineering camps happening across the U.S. Camps are listed by state.

For the full list, head to Project Lead the Way’s website.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons