Summer reading, summer camping, summer science

A Tiger Swallowtail butterfly drinks nectar from a milkweed flowerWhat can you suggest to your students and their families for summer science explorations? Indoor museum and library visits, and outdoor trips to the local park and to a novel environment—prairie, riverside, city parking lot, mountain, desert or beach—may entice you and your students to seek new experiences and knowledge that can be built on when you return to school.

For a list of fiction and non-fiction books, look at the Science NetLinks list for summer reading, just one part of the Summer Science Fun.   The list of resources includes books, online games, and hands-on activities for children. Check out the lists and make one to send home with your students.

Expand the list with activities from commercial websites. Send home information about one of the activities on the Home Science Tools Summer Science Projects page.  Include prompts for families, such as, “Ask your children what they wonder about and talk with them about the questions the activity might answer before doing the activity”. Some activities on the Steve Spangler “Science Experiments” page are as simple as discovering what you can do with a drinking straw to explore how sound can be changed.

As a fundraiser for the National Wildlife Federation, and an awareness-raiser about nature, go camping in your backyard on June 26th as part of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great American Backyard Campout®. Funds raised will be used to establish and maintain programs to make outdoor time a priority to protect children’s health and ensure their readiness to learn. Memories made will be used to build understanding about nature.

If you’d rather go camping in a park, check out the U.S. National Park Service listings.  The Grand Canyon’s 20th annual Star Party is going on right now until June 12, 2010.

Children and their families can do a science exploration right outside their door by following the model suggested by Donald Silver and Patricia Wynne’s book, One Small Square: Backyard. Their book series includes Pond, Woods, Seashore, Tundra, Swamp, and Desert, with illustrations to guide the suggested explorations.

One small square of a lawnHere’s what else is in my backyard,


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  1. Posted June 21, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    This post includes so many engaging ideas! I’d add exploring water to your suggestions. It’s easy to “mess about” with water right at home, indoors or out, with simple items families are likely to have on hand — turkey basters, eye droppers, funnels, sieves, plastic measuring cups and spoons and plastic bowls. Check out Exploring Water With Young Children by Ingrid Chalufour and Karen Worth for many more ideas. I’m currently using that book for inspiration at my school summer program. I posted some photos at
    To take things BIGGER families can use a garden hose, plastic rain gutters and plastic tubing outdoors.

  2. Peggy Ashbrook
    Posted June 21, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Good suggestions Marie and I love seeing them in action in the photos on the Thinking BIG, Learning BIG Facebook page. In summer the hot weather water play can quickly become water exploration with the addition of the tools you mention. Just a few plastic tubs or metal bowls are needed to present an interesting challenge to children, to move water from one container to another while measuring volume, using their force to lift and scoop and squeeze, experiencing the forces of suction, water surface tension, and gravity while learning about the properties of water, such as its ability to change shape to fit the container. Another cool object to work with in water is a length (or two!) of clear tubing sold by the foot at big box hardware stores, also suggested by Ingrid Chalufour and Karen Worth. Put out a paint brush for children to paint the house and sidewalk with water to see how long it will take to evaporate, and sidewalk chalk to see how it can be easily blended in a puddle. Gather a few items and test if they will float or sink. Then take turns predicting what a new object will do.
    Do children ever get tired of water play?

  3. Posted July 5, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Children’s fascination with water makes it an ideal way to introduce science inquiry. Presenting a challenge to children after they’ve had multiple extended opportunities to explore on their own (a strategy described by Ingrid Chalufour and Karen Worth) is particularly effective. Children had great fun trying to see if they could paint one big section of sidewalk with water before the first part evaporated. Photos of this and other water exporations are posted at

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