Summer is just around the corner and that spells F U N! God’s awesome creation is the ultimate classroom, and spending time together learning outside is a great way to while away the summer months while also continuing to log in school days. So grab your curiosity and make the most of your summer with these fun, educational activities.
Investigate Bug Habitats
- The best way to observe and study insects is in their natural habitat. However, expand your children’s learning window by humanely capturing and housing your specimens in a man-made habitat—a borrowed or purchased gently used aquarium set up to mimic your subject’s natural environment. Handy bug catching supplies include a net, a magnifying glass, and a pair of large plastic tweezers. You can make a great DIY net using cheesecloth and a wooden dowel—duct tape the netting material to the dowel and get ready, get set, catch!
- Make colorful bugs from playdoh and identify the parts of their bodies with toothpicks. Challenge your kids to think outside the habitat and create wacky new bugs. Encourage students to shape and put together body parts from several different bugs to create a new species and to design a matching habitat and diet based on combined characteristics.
- Draw and color a variety of insects. Cut them out and laminate them. Hide them in and around houseplants, peeking out from behind pillows, on windowsills, etc., and play hide and seek bugs.
- Make an environmentally friendly worm farm. Raising worms is both practical and educational – worms will hungrily consume your food waste while teaching your children about nutrition, biodegradation, composting, ecology, caring for their environment, and so much more.
Need more inspiration? Try these suggestions from Schooling a Monkey: 21 Fun Ways to Learn About Insects and Bugs.
Observe Summer Weather Patterns
Hurricanes and tornadoes are two of the most fascinating storm systems, and summertime is the prime time to study these weather wonders. By unearthing the mysteries behind these big storms and teaching your children essential preparedness skills, you can help make them less scary and learn a lot in the process.
National Hurricane Preparedness week is May 6-12, so be prepared as the Boy Scouts say.
Show your children how to track hurricanes with these handy printable maps and compare and contrast storm activity originating from both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Make a tornado in a bottle. This simple activity will give your children an up close and personal view of this swirling storm system. Try some of Steve Spangler’s “take it further” activities which follow this experiment.
Birdwatching is a delightful summer activity that you can continue throughout the year. Once birds discover your backyard feeding station, they’ll return year after year. Begin by setting up a variety of feeders in your yard in spring when common songbirds come out to play.
Hang up each of the following types of feeders to attract the widest variety of common North American birds:
- DIY songbird feeder: Your kids can make a simple feeder from an empty milk jug, a hollowed out gourd, and one half of an orange and then fill it with a basic songbird mix.
- Thistle feeder: Nyjer seed or thistle attracts specific varieties of smaller seed-eating birds such as American goldfinches, chickadees, song sparrows, house finches, common redpolls, purple finches, pine siskins, and more.
- Nectar feeder: Invite hummingbirds to the party with sugar water. In a large pot, simply mix together 4 cups water and 1 cup sugar. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, let cool completely, then pour mixture into the feeder. Hang and watch for these winged wonders.
- Suet feeder: blue jays, woodpeckers, warblers, wrens, and more will thank you with regular visits to this high energy snack. Make your own suet by collecting cooled fat from your skillet. Store it in a closed container in the refrigerator until you’ve accumulated a nice sized chunk. Melt it. Mix in some yummy bird-friendly goodies, let it harden, and stuff it inside a suet feeder cage or cheesecloth sack.
An excellent resources is Attracting Birds to Your Backyard.
As an avid chicken keeper myself, I regularly sing the praises of these fascinating creatures. Chickens are one of the easiest and most economical farm animals to raise, and just three chickens make an excellent beginner flock. Chickens are also intelligent, sociable, talkative, and funny to watch, plus your family will always have fresh eggs on hand. Consider these family-friendly breeds: buff orpington, black australorp, barred Plymouth Rock, speckled sussex, red star, wyandotte, and silkies.
Designing and building your starter coop and run is chock full of learning potential,l and children can learn a lot about animal and bird behavior by interacting with their chicken flock. Chickens can even be taught to perform tricks!
Some egg-cellent resources are:
- A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens
- Keep Chickens
- Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens…Naturally
Dig into Gardening
Gardening with your children can reap valuable rewards, and not just for their tummies. From the planning phase to the seasonal harvest, gardening teaches children many skills:
- Mathematical concepts: measurement, problem-solving, data gathering, record keeping, percentages, and more
- Pest control
- Scientific principles: plant germination and growth, disease, the effects of weather on plants, and more
- Pros and cons of chemical vs natural fertilizing methods
- Patience, responsibility, respect for the environment, communication skills, cause and effect, and a better understanding of nature in general
Here are some fun gardening activities:
- Plan and plant a vegetable garden with your kids. Get your kids involved in the prep work by having them take a soil sample and send it off to be tested.
- Grow a variety of herbs and edible flowers and spice up your meals. Kids are sure to get a kick out of topping their salads with pretty, yummy flower petals.
- Challenge your budding horticulturists to grow the tallest sunflowers or cornstalks, the largest pumpkin, or the most tomatoes on a single bush.
- Create a butterfly garden.
- Plant strawberries and reap delicious rewards. Strawberries are easy to grow and will even thrive in containers on your balcony, porch, or deck.
Go on a Scavenger Hunt
Pack up your curiosity and detective skills and take a walk on a nearby nature trail. Make a list of common indigenous wildflowers, plants, trees, animal life, mushrooms, berries. Add simple illustrations and work as a team to check off all the items.
The night sky is a like a giant storybook. Every constellation has a story to tell. On a clear night, gather together on a blanket and point out individual constellations and share their sparkling stories. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your kids will be pointing out Ursa Major, Orion, and Cassiopeia.
In what ways do you incorporate fun summer learning into your homeschool?