Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about summer learning. There’s this summer learning plan, and this checklist to make summer learning easy for everyone. But how are we infusing learning into our summers with family and friends, and what activities do we recommend?
With experience and passions in all different subject areas—from English and social studies to music, math, and history— here’s what our team recommends for busy families who want to do a little bit of everything this summer:
Arlene Sanchez (Boston Navigator) taught English in Boston Public Schools before joining EdNavigator. Here’s what she recommends for a bookish summer vacation:
1. Listen to an audiobook together.
“Are you headed on a road trip with your children this summer, or looking for opportunities to help your reluctant reader develop a love for reading during their summer vacation? Try listening to an audiobook during your time in the car.”
2. Start a family and friends book club.
“Try reading the same book as your teen or tween and discussing it together. Besides being an excuse to chat about books with older kids who might have outgrown reading with their parents, talking about books together will help build young people’s vocabulary, critical thinking, and confidence about the text. You could also invite two or three of your child’s friends to join. Encourage the group to set a summer reading goal and get together to talk about the books. They can make it extra fun by reading outdoors on the front steps, patio, or at the beach or park.”
3. Use an app to build writing skills.
“Teens who love reading—or even those who don’t—might be enticed to work on their writing skills with these cool new apps.”
Math and Science
Meghan Stroh (New Orleans Navigator) was a high school chemistry teacher before her days at EdNavigator. Here’s what she suggests for infusing your summer with “STEM” learning (science, technology, math, and engineering):
“You don't have to be a STEM expert to help your child be interested in or learn about STEM. The STEM Next Opportunity Fund has determined that just encouraging your child to engage with science and exposing them to STEM learning opportunities has a huge impact. It’s also one of the key factors in getting female students to persist in computer science studies/careers. Here are some ideas for doing STEM together.”
4. Try some at-home STEM projects.
“These can be one-day projects like creating crash test piñatas, or you can help your child learn how to code. Here are some ideas for preventing the summer science slide. You might not have to look any farther than right outside your house: One dad I work with observed caterpillars turning into butterflies with his daughter in their own backyard. Birds’ nests, bees humming around flowers, and plants growing all illustrate scientific concepts.”
5. Attend a STEM family event.
“Check out your community calendars for weekend events or see if there are any cool exhibits at nearby museums and discovery centers. You might even be lucky enough to have a science research facility in your area like this one in Livingston, LA. (Pro tip: these are also great places to host birthday parties.)”
6. Do math before bed.
“This great app, Bedtime Math, asks students to read and solve a different math problem every night. It helps students improve their math skills and can help parents overcome fears about math because you’ll be working on the problem with your child. It really works: A study showed that using the app as little as once a week over the course of a year moves kids three months ahead in their math knowledge—and kids in the study were still ahead two years later, even if they stopped using the app.”
Tim Daly (Founding Partner) started his career as a social studies teacher, and he’s still a history buff. Here’s what he has to say about bringing a little bit of the past into your present-day summer:
7. Dive into historical fiction.
“My recommendation for kids in summer is always to read. With the absence of school stuff and homework, there is no better time to read for pleasure. To build social studies knowledge specifically, it’s a great time to read historical fiction: This genre combines the storytelling, character development, and plot that kids love about fiction, but it introduces them to settings and context that build their awareness about the broader world.”
Here are some suggestions from Book Riot, a great source of book ideas for all ages:
Arts and Culture
Ileana Ortiz (New Orleans Navigator) is a local arts expert who grew up doing theater. She was (and still is) a self-proclaimed “major museum nerd.” Here are some of her favorite artsy activities:
“If you want to bring the arts home, there are tons of activities you and your kids can work on without needing too many special supplies. The arts don’t have to be messy or expensive.”
8. Make a drum.
“Drums are found in almost every culture around the world, and your child can make them at home on the cheap. As a kid, I did this and it was one of my absolute favorites.”
9. DIY jewelry.
“You probably have some old magazines, scissors, and glue hanging around the house anyway. Run to the Dollar Store for some pipe cleaners and your kids can turn those magazines into wearable art.”
10. Write a play.
“If you have a budding actor or writer, encourage your child to spend a day (or even a week!) writing a play that features them and a few friends. When they’re finished, have them perform it for you. Feel free to give your child prompts to get them started, or just let their imagination run wild.”
11. Check out a free museum.
“Museums, of course, are great places to take in art, but they’re also a nice break from outdoor activities (think air conditioning and quiet). Many major cities offer free admission to museums during the summer.”
Here are some lists of free museum days in New Orleans and Boston:
Art for All: Free Museum Admissions in New Orleans (The Helis Foundation)
Every Single Free Museum in New Orleans (Thrillist)
Boston Museums with Free Admission Every Day of the Week (Boston on Budget)
Free Museum Days (Boston Living on the Cheap)