Welcome to our second year of the School’s Out: Top 10 Summer Learning series!
I’m joining 35 wonderful kid bloggers this week to provide TONS of ideas & activities for summer learning and fun.
We know that summer should be a time for kids to kick-back and be kids — but it’s also a great opportunity to let the kids explore interests that they may not have the chance to learn about during the school year.
My kids have had some of the craziest and BEST learning during the summer. Lemonade stands, exploring the pond, writing a mystery book or visiting new places — all these experiences allow kids to keep their brains buzzing and increase their curiosity about the world and how things work!
Have you ever heard of Citizen Scientists projects?
They are so great for families — in a nut shell, universities and scientists across the globe offer every-day citizens the opportunity to help collect information and add it to a real-life science project!
There are so many of them going on right now — more than 100 projects each year the study all aspects of science. Families can help track birds, watch the weather, hunt for butterflies, search the night sky and run online data projects.
Many of the projects can be done by families with kids from preschoolers through teenagers. And it’s super easy to get involved — just visit one of the websites below and you’ll find information about each project along with the details you
Photo Credit/Ladybug photo: Sally King via Nat’l Parks Open Source
10 Summer Science Projects for Families
Enjoy some hands-on science this summer by getting involved in ongoing projects that help track wildlife, protect animals and explore our night sky!
An annual summer activity in our house — scouting out fireflies on an evening walk or as we sit in the backyard at night! Kids love their little “glow-butts” (now there’s a word we need to add to Webster’s 😉
The Museum of Science (Boston) would love for you to volunteer with Firefly Watch! All you need is 10 minutes each week to look for fireflies in your own area and then log your observations. They also have a great Virtual Habitat where kids (and adults) can learn about these little glow bugs.
For more fun along with a few great books to read, visit our Hands-on Science: Firefly Fun ideas!
Protect the Honeybees
I’m not sure if you noticed but you’re proably seeing less bees in your area during the summer months. Honeybees are yet another endangered insect with declining populations and whole colonies that are being wiped out!
Yet they are vital to all of us since they pollinate the plants that produce so much of our food. Dont’ worry — you don’t have to go catch any bees! If you’d like to learn more about a bee colony or see bees up close, check out the Honeybee books and videos we shared earlier this year.
The ZomBee Project is looking to find bees that are infected and usually fly at night (this is a good project for older kids who don’t mind a little gross-ness in their science).
Project Noah is an app that you download to your mobile phone which allows you to take photos of the various animals, insects and plants you see in your everyday adventures.
Scientists from many different locations can then look at the photos and data collected by Citizen Scientists for many of their ongoing research projects. Once you have the app, you can join various “Missions” which is the term they use for their nature/science projects.
Photo credit: US Government, National Parks website
Young kids love watching squirrels running up the trees and scampering around the yard. With Project Squirrel, you can track their behavior and report what your furry friends are doing in your yard or nearby park.
If you’d like a free printable tracking form, I created one you can download from Cwist, a free online site that offers kids fun ways to learn & explore!
If you prefer amphibians, you’ll enjoy getting involved in FrogWatch USA. The goal of this citizen science project is to track the mating calls of frogs and toads.
There are local chapters across the country. And since most of us probably won’t recognize a frog’s mating call, volunteers are asked to attend a training before heading out to observe a wetland site in their area.
Celebrate Urban Birds
And let’s not forget our flying friends — Celebrate Urban Birds is looking for bird watchers who would like to scout out the 16 species they are tracking. Kids will love using binoculars and going on a bird hunt this summer.
You don’t have the live in the city to participate — most of the birds can be found almost anywhere. And you can submit date both online and by mail using their paper form (I love that they still offer a paper form as it’s a great opportunity for kids of elementary age to get very hands-on with this project).
Wildlife Watch invites you to share photos and stories of all your wildlife encounters! You can do this at home or even when you’re on vacation.
Visit the website and enter your state (or the state where you’ll be vacationing). Then choose the option to print the list of wildlife for that state. You’ll get this beautiful checklist of all the possible animals you might see with full color pictures!
The checklist makes it easy for kids to identify the animals and insects they observe. Then head back to the website and enter your observation data.
Lost Ladybug Project
Another favorite insect amoung children, the Lost Ladybug Project needs helpers to photograph all types of ladybugs so they can learn more about which species are thriving and which are becoming more rare.
This is a super easy project — search for ladybugs, take a photo and upload the photo with information about where you found the ladybug.
Photo credit: US Government, National Parks website
Globe at Night
For families that enjoy watching the night sky, Globe at Night is a Citizen Scientist constellation project that is working to measure the magnitude of stars around the globe (they want to see how bright the stars are in your area and learn more about light pollution).
Each month, you’ll be searching for a different constellation and will match it to one of their star charts to show how many stars in your area were visible. Another great activity for families with kids of all ages!
We also have some great book & activity pairings if you’d like more hands-on fun — try these:
Milky Way Project
If you have kids who enjoy science and computers, this project is right up their alley! The Milky Way Project is an online Citizen Scientist initiative that asks volunteers to look at photos taken by a telescope and classify what they see in each picture.
This is a super-cool and super-easy project that can be done by families with tweens and teens — younger kids might even enjoy some of the detailed work too. The website has a great online tutorial that shows you what you’ll need to find and how to mark it on the photos.
For more great ideas on Fun Ways to Learn this summer, check out master list of ideas & activities on the School’s Out homepage!