Summer’s Here! Ideas for At-Home Project-Based Learning Activities

Summer has arrived. It feels like a breath of fresh air for teachers, parents, and students. The COVID-19 pandemic has flipped teaching and learning on its head – remote learning, endless virtual office hours, discovering methods and techniques to keep students engaged – it’s an entirely new arena for many. It can be frightening, exciting, innovative, and exhausting all at the same time. But now that summer vacation is upon us, the long-awaited break has arrived…and so has the opportunity to keep students’ brains active and stimulated.

Unfortunately, TV and video games aren’t the type of activities we are discussing here. We mean Project-Based Learning activities! Summertime PBL activities only require a short list of supplies and some imagination.

PBL Ideas for Summertime

Growing an At-Home Garden

Gardens are not usually the first thing that we think of when coming up with summer activities. Students may find it boring or hard to do – especially if they live in a big and busy city. Yet, gardens open up entire exciting fields of study. How do we grow the food we eat? What can we eat versus cannot eat? What type of food grows where? All these amazing questions come up when a project-based gardening project is developed.

Challenge your kids to find the best way to grow plants.  Tomatoes, green beans, and herbs (mint and parsley, specifically) are some of the best and easiest plants to grow.  Set up the challenge using either an aquaponics, hydroponics or basic garden soil environment.  Use at least two of these methods for comparing results! After building your garden with your child, plant the seeds or seedlings and keep close track of their progress. After the plants have grown, examine which method gave the best results.  What plants seemed healthier and more robust? Which ones grew faster? Did any not grow? If using a harvest plant such as tomatoes, which growing method provided the most produce or herbs?  By showing your child what it takes to produce food, they’ll grow a greater interest in agriculture and how it applies to them and the world around them.  

Chemistry: It’s for Lunch

Chemistry. Some students love it, other students shudder at the mention of its name. Almost the Voldemort of subjects, it can be dreadful and difficult – if not taught properly. Chemistry is real-life and real-life is chemistry. It is constantly happening in the world around us and applies to everyday life. By using a few chemistry-based recipes, you can show your child this subject’s value and mitigate some of their fear and anxiety. Believe it or not, students will be surprised at the ease of these following chemistry concepts. We recommend the following:

The Computer Built At Home

Children now are practically tech and computer experts. So why not embrace it? Use this summer to challenge them to build their own mini-computer. Through this project, they can grow their appreciation and understanding of technology. We recommend Raspberry Pi, but there are other kits out there that work just as well. With Raspberry Pi, students go through each step to create a working miniature computer. Watch out, Bill Gates.

The first part of the project is getting the basics down – computer design and functionality. The second part is coding! Coding is how computers essentially “talk.” By getting your child to learn computer-speak, they are constructing a foundation for future success in a world dominated by technology-driven industries and ideas. Classes and any local programs are great methods for teaching beginner coding skills! Giving children access to technology skills early on is giving them the tools and training they need for growth and success in computer science or really any industry since most industries now incorporate some sort of computer science and technology.

Meal Planning & Money: Start Early!

Most folks think of meal planning is for bodybuilders, athletes, and fitness freaks…but it is actually an incredibly valuable skill to have. By teaching our children the value and power of money and budgeting early, they are being set up for success as they reach their teenage and young adult years. This summer take the opportunity to involve your children in weekly meal plans and showing how much food costs. The sooner they are able grasp budgeting and money, the more financially independent they can become! Allow kids to pick their favorite food and meals as increasing their engagement.

After selecting the foods, use a meal planner or budget template to organize for the week. Beside each item, help your child estimate an appropriate price.  Calculate an overall price budget range for each meal or the week overall. 

Take your child shopping with you and begin searching for the foods on your list. Your child might be surprised at just how pricey certain items are, especially if they believed it would be a lower price. Challenge them to find the best price to stay within the budget. After food shopping for the week, compare the receipt and budget. Did they stay within the right range? Where were they able to save any money? If shopping did go over the budget, see whether they understand what they could do differently next time. Make sure you allow your child to help with the budget a few more times so they can get a full understanding of it! Each time they are involved, they’ll improve their budgeting and shopping skills as well as gain a better understanding of how money works.  

Summertime is a period to relax, have some fun and play games, but it also is an opportunity to keep children engaged, keep their minds active, and teach new skills. We encourage you to take some time to plan and build memorable PBL activities this summer – they’ll pay off in the future!