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3 Tools to Help Kids Learn Over the Summer

3 Tools to Help Kids Learn Over the Summer Learning can take place anywhere, not just in the classroom. Summertime offers many opportunities for kids to gain knowledge.You can help them learn by introducing them to three simple tools designed to get them interested in learning, even if they don’t realize that’s what they’re doing.

1. Ask Questions

Sometime during the toddler years, kids go through a “why” phase. They use the question “Why?” to help them figure out the world and everything in it. Unfortunately, many kids quickly grow out of that stage. To help kids learn over the summer, re-introduce them to the art of asking questions. It may seem annoying to have a child who is constantly asking how and why things happen, but when you realize those questions help them learn, it’s much easier to handle.

To help kids learn to ask questions, start by asking questions yourself. For example, if you’re at the zoo and see a zookeeper standing by an animal cage, take the time to ask the zookeeper a question. You don’t have to be at a zoo or museum to ask a question either. Ask questions of people all around you – your mechanic, the teller at the bank, the person stocking shelves in the grocery store. Even if you already know the answer to some of the questions you ask, you’ll show your children how easy it is to ask questions on their own. They’ll also discover that people are usually more than willing to answer the questions they ask.

2. Introduce them to Experts

When it comes to asking questions, one of the best places to find an answer is an expert on the topic of the question. The summer is a great time to help kids gain access to experts in many different career fields, not only to ask questions, but also to observe them as they work. Since
kids aren’t in school all day, they have more time to see how different adults spend their time. While many jobs don’t aren’t ideal for having a kid underfoot, some workplaces may allow children to shadow
a family member or close family friend for a day. Spending a day on the job can help kids learn more than simply reading a book or watching a video. It also gives them access to multiple experts in an industry and many of them will be ready to teach kids what they know.

When it comes to introducing kids to experts, think beyond careers and focus on interests and hobbies, too. For example, if your child is interested in the Civil War, see if you can set up an interview with a local Civil War reenactor. If your child wants to become a stronger swimmer, contact the swim team of a local college and see if a student would be willing to sit down with your child and give him some advice. Many adults who have hobbies would be more than happy to
take some time to sit down with your child and share about their interests.

Don’t forget about classes either. Many groups hold special classes during the summer. If your child is interested in cooking, for example, you may find a cooking class taught by a local chef. If your child likes sports, look for a sports camp that features a professional athlete or coach. These classes often cost money, but the cost is worth it if your child gets to interact
with someone at the top of their field.

3. Watch Videos

Of course sometimes your local area won’t offer special summer classes or experts that are of interest to your child. Thankfully, kids have the internet. Online they can find tons of videos related to their interests, many of them featuring some of the top people in the field. For example, TED Talks and Big Think have been known to feature some of the world’s greatest scientists and thinkers. Websites such as Top Documentary Films also can help kids learn by allowing them to access documentaries for free.

Since it’s summer, you may not want your kids sitting in front of the computer or TV screen all day. That’s where videos from sites like YouTube come in handy. Many YouTube channels (such as these channels for social studies) contain short videos designed to help kids get snippets of knowledge. A simple search for how-to videos can also help kids pick up a new skill by watching short videos. Maybe this summer they’ll learn to play the guitar, take ballroom dancing lessons, or discover how to make homemade ice cream. With millions of how-to videos on YouTube, kids can learn almost anything.

Sure, you want your kids to relax during the summer, but you don’t want them to stop learning. By connecting these tools with other summer learning activities you can ensure kids are being filled with knowledge over the summer.

For more resources to get kids learning on their own this summer, share our Ultimate Guide to Free Online Self-Learning for Kids, which is full of free videos, courses, and other materials to help kids explore their interests and find answers to their most pressing questions.

What tools do you use to help kids learn over the summer? We’d love to hear your ideas!

5 Summer Science Exploration Ideas for Kids

Science surrounds us and summer offers the perfect time for families to explore science in action. Avoid the summer slump and try some of these suggestions for summer science adventures with your child. Most of these activities are low-cost or free, but be sure to check with your local library before heading out to learn about free and discount passes to museums and other local attractions.

1. Participate in a Citizen Science Project

Science is collaborate by nature, so join in and lend a hand by participating in a citizen science project. Project participants support scientific research by:

These are just a few of citizen science projects looking for volunteers and many welcome help from children working with the guidance of an adult. Search for other citizen science projects at Zooniverse and SciStarter.

2. Become a National Park Service Junior Ranger

With parks from Maine to California and everywhere in-between, the National Park Service offers an affordable option for hands-on summer science fun. Fourth grade students qualify for free annual park passes through the Every Kid in a Park program. The Junior Rangers Program gives kids the opportunity to explore nature, attend ranger guided programs, and complete activities for each park. If your budding park ranger completes a Junior Ranger Program, each park offers a patch or badge and a certificate of completion. Can’t visit a particular park? Visit the NPS’s on-line WebRangers page.

3. Visit a Science Center

There are many fabulous science museums that offer kids access to interactive learning opportunities. For those fortunate enough to be within driving distance to a NASA center, consider a visit. Learn about space exploration, aeronautics, and ongoing missions and discoveries. Many of the centers, including Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, welcome visitors and offer tours. If you can’t travel to a visitor center, then be sure to visit NASA Wavelength and explore the vast collection of educational resources NASA has to offer.

With centers across the nation, the Audubon Society provides outdoor adventure for all ages. Visit a sanctuary, go on a hike, and explore the local lands and wildlife. Many centers offer nature themed programs designed exclusively for children and families as well as summer camps. Centers are open to the public, but those with memberships may visit for free and receive discounts on programs and camps. Find an Audubon Center near you.

4. Try Hands-On Science Activities

Hands-on science activities at home are a great way to have some summer fun, spend family time together, and even learn a little something new. Science at home is affordable and typically can be conducted with household objects and resources. Follow your child’s lead and try experiments related to his or her interests. Get started with these science activities for kids or browse this collection of home science activities from Scientific American.

5. Star Watch

Grab a blanket and the bug spray and head outside for some star gazing. If possible, get away from light pollution, you will be amazed at what you can see once your eyes adjust to the dark on a clear night. Bring a star chart and try to locate a few stars, planets, constellations, and galaxies. Use binoculars to identify surface features of the moon. If that isn’t spectacular enough for your aspiring astronomer, try counting the number of “shooting stars” during a meteor shower. August’s Perseids meteor shower is a great one to enjoy on a warm summer evening. Check out this year’s not-to-miss celestial events to watch with kids.

Looking for more ideas for summer fun with your children? Be sure to read 100 Summer Activities for Kids!

10 Activities to Celebrate World Oceans Day


World Oceans Day is June 8th and there is still time to celebrate! Put on a blue shirt and forge ahead with these ten fun ways to celebrate World Oceans Day with your class or family.

1.
Skipper your crew to a World Oceans Day event in your area. From art contests to film festivals to hands-on exhibits, there are ocean activities taking place around the world.

2. Navigate your way to the World Oceans Day website and check out their last minute celebration ideas. Find ways to help keep plastic out of oceans and landfills with your students or family.

3. Google is charting new territory with its Oceans Street View images. Allow students to explore this stunning collection.

4. Set course to Adrift.org and challenge students to predict the path of floating pollution before they try this engaging interactive.

5. The Smithsonian has made great headway in compiling this diverse collection of ocean-related lesson plans for educators.

6. For landlubbers who can’t venture out to sea, dive into an ocean-themed book for a reading adventure worthy of the high seas. Get started with one of these nautical tales.

Nautical Novels and Seaworthy Stories
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
Flotsam by David Wiesner
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater (Worksheet)
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (Worksheet)
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Billy Budd by Herman Melville
The Pearl by John Steinbeck (Worksheet)
Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
The Odyssey by Homer (Worksheet)
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

7. Ahoy! Teachers, students, and families can join an Ocean Guardian Program and plan a school or community conservation project, submit ocean-themed artwork, stories, or poetry, and even become involved in diving!

8. If you are swamped with lesson planning, check out Help Teaching’s collection of pre-made, ocean-themed worksheets. Or, have your students try our online lessons on Ocean Vocabulary WordsOcean Zones, Tsunamis, or Tides.

9. Set your bearings to your local aquarium. Students of all ages will enjoy viewing and interacting with the amazing variety of sea life on display.

10. Head to the beach! What better way to celebrate World Oceans Day than by digging in the sand, discovering tide pools, and surfing the waves?

Have other suggestions for celebrating World Oceans Day with students and children? Share them in the comments! Read The Ultimate Guide to Teaching Science for more ways to invigorate your science curriculum and teaching.

10 Engaging Earth Day Activities for Kids

10 Engaging Earth Day Activities
Since 1970, Earth Day has been raising public awareness of environmental issues. Today, our waterways are less polluted and our air is cleaner, yet there is still much work to be done before we can consider ourselves a sustainable society. This year, engage your students or children with one of these eco-friendly activities on Earth Day or the weeks leading up to it.

Activities for Children – Kindergarten to Grade 6

Plant a Tree

It may seem cliché, but planting a tree is a simple act that helps the environment and gets children outdoors enjoying the natural world on Earth Day. Coordinate with your school a place on the grounds where your class can plant a tree or check with your local conservation board for a public location. Apply for free trees through organizations like Trees for Schools (UK and Ireland only) and Trees for Wildlife or by having students write to local nurseries.

Raise a School Garden

April is National Garden Month, making Earth Day the perfect time to plant a school garden. Gardens are an excellent way to get kids moving, encourage healthy eating, and incorporate project-based learning into your curriculum. A school garden takes time and commitment, but in planning and raising a garden, you will sow seeds that will help your students reap a lifetime of rewards! Get started with these school gardening tips.

Don’t Put Out the Trash

During the week leading up to Earth Day, arrange with the custodian not to remove the trash and recycling from your classroom. On Earth Day, have your students weigh the trash and recycling they generated (weigh trash separately from recycling). Over the next week, challenge your students to toss and use less, plus recycle more. After a week, have students weigh the trash and recycling again and calculate the decrease (hopefully!) in trash weight and increase in recycling weight. Extend the lessen for older students and have them calculate percent increase and decrease as well. Get started by assigning the lessons Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and The Trash Patrol, then read our America Recycles Activity Guide for more ideas.

Walk to School

It is good for the environment and our children’s health. More and more schools are planning annual walk or bike to school days. Why not plan one for April 22 or use Earth Day to have your students start planning for National Walk to School Day in May? Visit the Walk & Bike to School website for more information on getting started.

Our Top Pick

Declare April 22 Waste-Free Lunch Day

With the help of your class and the EPA’s Pack A Waste-Free Lunch site, make Earth Day a school-wide commitment to reducing the mounds of garbage generated during a typical school lunch. Have your class coordinate with administrators and cafeteria workers and help spread the word to students and parents about what can be done to minimize lunch waste.

Get your students excited for Earth Day by engaging them with these interactive lessons on Climate Literacy and Environmentalism by PBS Learning Media and with Help Teaching’s self-paced science lessons.

Activities for Teens – Grades 7 to 12

Participate in a Citizen Science Project

Engage your children or students in authentic science by participating in an eco-themed crowd science collaboration. There are numerous projects running that allow students to participate with adult supervision, including the environmentally oriented: Forgotten Island, YardMap, The Lost Ladybug Project, and Globe at Night.

Our Top Pick

Take a Field Trip

What student doesn’t love a field trip? Plan an inexpensive day out by arranging tours of your local landfill, recycling center, wastewater treatment facility, and/or power plant (even better – visit a plant that uses renewable energy and one that uses a nonrenewable source). Yes, it will be dirty, hot, and smelly, but what better way for students to develop an understanding of where energy comes from and trash goes than to see it for themselves?

Host an Environmental Career Fair

Enlist your students in finding local professionals working in environmental careers to visit the school on Earth Day. Arrange for a career fair that allows students to hear about green jobs and discuss job duties with the professionals. Have students prepare questions ahead of time and write thank-you notes after.

Conduct a School Energy Audit

Challenge students to work in small groups to perform an energy audit of their school. Each group can audit energy use for a given building space like the classroom, cafeteria, gymnasium, or auditorium. Groups can share their results and compare their findings, then use the data to prepare an energy action plan to present to school administration. National Wildlife Federation and Green Education Foundation both offer resources for energy audit projects for students.

Build a Rube Goldberg Machine

Ask your students to bring in a variety of cleaned items from their home recycling containers during the week leading up to Earth Day. On April 22, divide your students into teams and task them with designing and building a machine that completes a simple eco-friendly task such as turning off the lights or watering a plant. Provide basic materials, like string and wine, to aid in construction. Be sure and have your students demonstrate their machines for an audience and see if their projects can be displayed in the school lobby or library.

Launch a Project-Based Learning Unit

Spring has sprung and students are anxious to get outside, making Earth Day is the perfect time to embark on an environmentally focused project-based learning (PBL) initiative. BIE.org offers extensive PBL resources for teachers and students – start by using their search tool for project ideas.

Be sure to visit Help Teaching’s Earth Science Printables and Lessons for free environmental science resources to use on Earth Day and year round!

11 Prime Days to Celebrate Math Holidays

Math Holidays
If you’re a math teacher, every day is a reason to celebrate math, but did you know that there are also a multitude of “holidays” centered around math? Using a math holiday as an angle to get students excited about math adds up to a whole lot of fun! We hope this list will inspire and energize your math teaching throughout the year.

1. e Day

If you teach any high school students with irrational math fears, then help them transcend their fears on February 7. Euler’s number, e, which is both irrational and transcendental, rounds to 2.7, thus we have e Day on 2/7. Show students the practical use of Euler’s number by introducing them to continuous compounding interest. A little lesson in financial literacy is always valuable!

2. 100th Day of School

The number of creative ways to celebrate this day is certainly not limited to 100! Ask students to bring in containers of 100 small objects and display them around the school. Have students create a list of 100 reasons why they love their school or community. Explore what life was like 100 years ago. Collect 100 food items and donate them to your local food pantry. Visit Help Teaching to use our 100 charts and lessons, as well as all of our counting worksheets.

3. Pi Day

Pi may be infinite, but Pi Day is not. Celebrate Pi Day on March 14 in recognition of its common abbreviation, 3.14. Plan a party with your students, but wait to sound the party horns until exactly 1:59 in the afternoon (3.14159)! Double the fun and make it a party for Albert Einstein, whose birthday is also on March 14. Be sure to check out Help Teaching’s worksheets featuring the number pi. Pi Day also kicks off World Math Week.

4. Mathematics & Statistics Awareness Month

Use all 1 + 4 + 9 + 16 days of April to celebrate the beauty and fun of mathematics. Focus on bringing math alive by making math relevant for students and connecting math and statistics to real-world problems. Elementary students can record daily weather data throughout April, then graph and analyze their results. Middle school students are at an age where decision making becomes more independent. Connect daily decisions making to probability with the game-based activity SKUNK. High school students have enough mathematical background to develop statistical questions on topics of personal interest, then collect, interpret, and present their data. Get started with this collection of statistics worksheets.

5. Square Root Day

The only thing square about Square Root Day is the date. When the day and the month are both the square root of the last two digits of the year, we have a Square Root Day. April 4, 2016 (4/4/16) was a Square Root Day, but the next one won’t be until May 5, 2025 (5/5/25)! Get radical and make these special days square-themed.

6. Palindrome Days

Palindrome days aren’t just for students named Bob or Hannah. Palindrome days fall on any dates where the numbers of the month, day, and year are the same both forward and backwards. For example, June 10, 2016 was a Palindrome Day (6/10/16), but only in countries where dates are written month/day! Challenge your students to formulate lists of future Palindrome dates. Start with five-digit Palindrome dates (M/DD/YY) and work up to eight-digit dates (MM/DD/YYYY).

7. Pythagorean Theorem Day

As proof that the squares don’t have a monopoly on the math holidays, Pythagorean Theorem Day comes around periodically. Also known as Right Triangle Day, recognize Pythagorean Theorem Day whenever the sums of the squares of the month and day equals the square of the last two digits of the year. August 15, 2017 (8/15/17) and December 16, 2020 (12/16/20) are both Pythagorean Theorem Days. Make sure to check out our self-paced lesson on Solving Right Triangles.

8. Math Storytelling Day

No need to divide your instructional time between math and ELA on September 25 (9/25), it’s Math Storytelling Day! There are many ways to teach math through storytelling. Start the day by reading Math Curse, The Grapes of Math, or Sir Cumference or any math story to your students. Try a math story lesson like The General Sherman Tree or Let’s Go to the Zoo. Then, provide a writing prompt and ask students to write and share their own math stories.

9. Powers of Ten Day

Although 10/10/10 has passed, each October 10 can still be used to illustrate the powers of tens. Show your students the power of magnitude by screening the classic film Powers of TenTM. Spend at least one-tenth of your class time this day doing hands-on decimal or base ten exponent activities.

10. Mole Day

No, this day doesn’t pay homage to the subterranean dwellers. Rather, it is a special day for anyone with an interest in math or chemistry. If you remember Avogadro’s number, then you may guess the date of this math day! Mole Day takes place on October 23 each year between 6:02 a.m. and 6:02 p.m. (6.02 x 10^23) during National Chemistry Week. Use Help Teaching’s Chemistry Lessons and this TedEd video to introduce students to mathematical moles.

11. Fibonacci Day

Quick, what number comes next: 0 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 3 + ___? If you said five, then embrace your inner math geek and celebrate Fibonacci Day with your students on November 23 (11/23). Take this day to let your students explore the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio in nature. Mensa for Kids offers a nice selection of activities perfect for introducing students to the elegance of Fibonacci.

Visit HelpTeaching.com and utilize our growing library of K-12 math worksheetslessons, and math generators!