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A Beach Bag Full of Summer Learning Resources

Learning shouldn’t stop just because school is out. Here are some ideas to keep students reading, writing and thinking all summer long.

Armchair Travels

  • features interactive activities on range of subjects — natural history, earth science, people & cultures, technology — all searchable by topic and grade level.
  • NASA has a wide range of activities on its website — take a virtual field trip, design a habitable planet, or solve real-life air traffic control problems.
  • Circumnavigate the globe with the Smithsonian’s My Wonderful World tool.
  • For high schoolers mulling their college choices, features virtual campus tours, school profiles, student reviews, and forums.

Tour the Museums

  • Attention: Art Lovers. SmArtHistory is an award-winning website that functions like an art history book. Search by theme, style or artist, then listen to an audio discussion of the work.
  • The Smithsonian Air & Space Museum’s website has resources on the history of aviation and pioneers in the field.

Get into Geocaching

  • Everyone loves a scavenger hunt! Get in on the latest outdoor craze with geocaching, where families search for hidden “caches” or containers using handheld GPS tools (or a GPS app on your smart phone). Try a variation on geocaching called earthcaching where you seek out and learn about unique geologic features. Find more details about geocaching plus links to geocaching websites in this article from the School Family website, Geocaching 101: Family Fun for All, in Every Season . Or follow one young family on their geocaching adventure: Geocaching with Kids: The Ultimate Treasure Hunt .

Don’t Forget About the Library

  • Your local public library has lots of resources and information for teens — computers, enrichment programs, and volunteer and employment opportunities.

Tips for Parents

  • You know that reading is important, and you want to make sure that your teenager grows into adulthood with all the skills he or she needs to succeed. This list suggests ways to encourage your teens to read.
  • Use this checklist from the Center for Summer Learning to identify high-quality summer learning programs.
  • Audiobooks are a great alternative to summer reading, especially for children who read slowly. Download free and low-priced audiobooks from Librivox and AudibleKids .
  • Check out YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers , an annual list of books of interest reluctant readers ages 12-18.

Write On!

  • Arrange for your students to blog in a safe, closed community. Edublogs offers teachers and students free blog space and appropriate security. Students will need an e-mail address in order to create an account. Free, disposable e-mail accounts are available at Mailinator. Students can create an account there, use the address long enough to establish the blog and password, and then abandon the e-mail account.
  • Lots of publishers offer free books and advance reader’s copies just for telling them what you think. Check out these opportunities for teens to read and write book reviews.

Resources to Share with Teens

  • Parent-Teen online magazine has some great ideas for summer activities that can help teens get into college. Examples include doing independent study with the supervision of a mentor and pursuing enrichment opportunities on local college campuses.
  • Encourage teens to read the books nominated as a favorite book of 2009, so teens can vote online for their favorites during Teen Read Week in October. The ten titles with the most votes become YALSA’s official 2009 Teen’s Top Ten List.
  • These resources from College Board remind teens that summer school isn’t just for kids who need to catch up. Summer school can give teens a chance to pursue their interests, to try some hands-on activities outside the classroom, or to try a college-level course.

Reading Incentive Programs

  • The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), along with World Wrestling Entertainment, sponsors the WrestleMania Reading Challenge. The goal of this program is to reach reluctant readers and get more teens reading beyond Teen Read Week by implementing a reading incentive program that provides prizes from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) as a reward.
  • Pizza Hut’s BOOK IT! program has a summer component called Spark Your Greatness It’s for kids grades K-6, and features a minute tracker app, book recommendations, recipes for readers, printables, games, and activity calendars.

Beyond Reading and Writing

  • Kids who participate in community service activities develop new skills, along with self-confidence and self-esteem. Youth Service America offers 100 Ways to Make a Difference in Your Community .
  • Promote healthy and balanced media use at home during the summer. The PACT from the National PTA can help kids and parents reach good screen-time compromises.
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