Science in the summer: Some easy ideas for the whole family

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Parents: You may not know what Einstein's formula e=mc2 stands for, or which elements make up trichlorethylene, but not to worry.

All the skills you need to get your kids excited about science you undoubtedly already have: questioning, observing, classifying, and predicting.

What's more, science activities can mean summer fun for the whole family - whether it's at the beach or in the backyard.

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Here are just a few summer science ideas from the National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA):

Take a hike. Lead children on short hikes through the woods, a city park, or even in the backyard to identify leaves. Have children gather them and group them by shape. Ask children questions, such as why are the leaves similar or different.

Fun in the sun. If the seashore is a vacation destination, the tides are a perfect opportunity to talk about the moon's effect on Earth. Children can put sticks in the sand at the water's edge and compare the water levels at various times of the day. At low tide, explore the tidal pools for the rich diversity of animals and plants.

Look into the sky. Backyard astronomy can be an inexpensive way to create a science learning experience. The regular movements of objects like the moon are perfect for investigation, especially over a series of days. Ask your child about the size, color, and shape of the moon, whether it moved, or what phase it is in. Children can also make predictions about what the moon will do and when, and test their hypotheses. In many areas, August brings great meteor light shows.

Summer science project. Help children start a summer science project. Visit the NSTA's Web site (www.nsta.org) to learn about K-12 science awards programs. Children can use the summertime to explore themes and to begin work on a project before school starts in the fall.

The NSTA encourages parents to visit their local science museum or library to find more activities they can do with their children. A brochure for parents, "Help Your Child Explore Science," is available free by writing: Parent Information, NSTA, 1840 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA, 22201.

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