Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Learning Series: Taking it Afuera

This is the perfect time to take advantage of the beautiful weather outside. Many of you may be planning a trip to la playa, or maybe some camping in the montañas. With a little preparation on your part, you may be able to come up with some fun activities to turn your trip into a learning experience. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

If you’re headed to the beach

• Take along a pad and some watercolors so that your child can paint coastal landscapes or shells and other natural artifacts that they collect on the trip.

• Take turns writing rhyming words in the sand. Or practice writing and solving math equations. 

• Bring along some of your summer reading and work on literacy skills while you are lying on the beach.

• Check out this Take-Along Guide to help your kids learn more about their discoveries.

• Help younger children learn their numbers and colors with a good game of Uno® or Crazy Eights every night after dinner.

• Use collected shells to practice sequencing, pattern recognition and even categorization/sorting. Have your child create a bar graph based on her findings.

 • If your child has a camera, assign him or her the job of official trip reporter. Have them create a journal that includes pictures and make sure they label or describe each event/item/person. This helps them practice their writing and reading. For a different version, give them some newsprint and have them create their own “newspaper” using the traditional layout.

If you’re headed camping

There are so many science-based activities you can do on a camping trip! All you have to do is provide some tools and then let your children’s imagination run wild.

• Campers can practice some scientific discovery by taking along an explorer kit that includes some (or all) of the following: a net, magnifying glass, flashlight/headlamp, bug spray, journal, pencil/pen, tweezers, and ruler.

• Other important equipment: mud boots, binoculars, bug spray, and containers. Don’t forget a nature guide to help you identify your discoveries!

• Have your kids keep a running list of all the animals they observe. Set aside one page in your nature journal for each species and be sure to include scientific names, habitat description, time of day, etc.

• Take some water samples and analyze them with a water test kit or take the samples back home with you for a later project. Be sure to observe the lake/stream/river that they come from. What is its color? Does is smell? Are there any fish in it? Bugs? Plants? Do you see any birds or other wildlife drinking/bathing/nesting nearby?

• Try to identify some of the flora in the area, too. Collect different leaves, or photograph trees & bushes (be sure to include their bark), then figure out what type they are when you get back to camp using one of your handy-dandy field guides.

• Keep an eye out for animal tracks and create a plaster-of-paris mold for each set you find.

• Challenge your children to find things that are naturally found in sets of 2, 4, 6, etc.

• Practice stargazing. Encourage your children to locate as many constellations and/or stars and planets that they can correctly identify. Prepare ahead of time by learning a few new ones using a constellation guide.

• Have your kids create a “newsletter” of their camping adventure and mail it (or email it) to family and friends. Don’t forget to include pictures with the articles!

For more ideas on how to keep your kids learning while on vacation, check out the following books: (Unfortunately, I couldn't find any in Spanish.) 

Seashells, Crabs & Sea Stars (Take-Along Guides) by Christiane Kunp Tibbitts  
Splashing by the Shore: Beach Activities for Kids (Acitvities for Kids) by Lisa Mullarkey and Debra Dixon

Nature Guide to the Carolina Coast: Common Birds, Crabs, Shells, Fish, and Other Entities of the Coastal Environment by Peter Meyer 
(I imagine this field guide would be appicable to most beaches)

Sleeping in a Sack: Camping Activities for Kids by Linda White and Fran Lee

Kids Camp!: Activities for the Backyard or Wilderness (A Kid's Guide series) by Laurie Carlson and Judith Dammel  

Trekking on a Trail (Activities for Kids) by Linda White and Fran Lee

•  Camp Out!: The Ultimate Kids' Guide by Lynn Brunelle

Con cariño....


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