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Staycation and DIY Summer Camp Ideas

By: Beth Werrell
Staycation and at-Home Summer Camp Ideas

Sending your child to summer camp can be expensive and may cut into his or her summer schedule. Find the right balance with the summer learning pyramid and gather ideas from the list below to create your own "staycation" and at-home summer camp experiences, which can be shaped around your family's agenda.

Summer Camp Activities at Home

It's summer! Take advantage of the weather and get active with outdoor games and activities, like water balloon tosses, tug-of-war competitions, and scavenger hunts. You can also encourage your child to find a sport he or she likes and practice with you in the backyard. Set up a volleyball net, grab a soccer ball, or throw a baseball back and forth.

Get creative with movie nights by hosting a backyard theater. Set up a "drive-in" movie by situating your car to face the garage and projecting a movie on the garage door or on a white sheet on the side of your house. Host a sleepover with your child and his or her friends and have them select a movie. Provide snack ideas, such as "ants on a log" or caramel popcorn, or have each child create his or her own trail mix snack bags.

Keep learning alive this summer with learning activities your child can have fun with. Create a tree guide or an animal guide and take your child to the park so he or she can observe nature. You can also sign the family up for a ...

Summer Weather Experiments for the Family

By: Beth Werrell

Take advantage of the warm weather and teach your child about rain, the sun's rays, rainbows, and weather patterns. Here, we've gathered fun, grade-appropriate experiments based on ease and safety. Pick one or try them all!

Weather Experiments for 6–8 Learners

This decorative wind experiment is perfect for a summer holiday activity, like a birthday, the Fourth of July, or another summer celebration. Teach your child about wind science with the step-by-step pinwheel instructions below.

Bake outside using the heat from the sun. In this activity, you will need a pizza box or other cardboard container, aluminum foil, and common household items. This activity involves a lot of cutting and taping until you have shaped your homemade oven. Make s'mores. If you have more time to wait, then bake cookies! Explain to your child that the oven works by collecting the shorter wavelengths from the sun and trapping them, which is also known as the greenhouse effect.

Make it rain in a jar. Since this experiment involves boiling water and hammering small indentations into a jar lid, make sure you are around to supervise. This activity provides your child with a visual representation of rain on a smaller scale, which is easier to digest. As the cold surface of the lid cools the evaporating water, the vapor collects at the top of the jar and forms back into a liquid.

The old "suck an egg into a bottle" experiment...

Free Printable Pet Trivia Questions for Kids and Parents

By: Beth Werrell

Considering adopting a pet for your family? Put down the pro–con list. Pets can be extremely beneficial to your child's growth and development. Consider some of the advantages of pet ownership listed below, and then download our pet trivia game for a fun way to learn more about animals.

Pets and Physical Activity

Active pets, such as dogs, need physical activity, so your child will likely become more active, or stay active, with a pet. Just make sure that he or she is pitching in. Create an activity calendar, or add activities with your pet to an existing calendar, so that your child knows what is expected each day. Schedule activities like runs, walks, or playtime so that your pet is sure to get the attention it deserves.

Pets and Life Lessons

Owning a pet can be emotionally trying through certain periods, but these are the times when your child may learn some crucial life lessons about death, illness, and mourning. These can be difficult concepts for child to grasp, but learning these lessons early will allow your child to develop coping mechanisms.

Pets and Responsibility

Pets take care and attention. Teach your child responsibility by assigning him or her pet-related chores, such as cleaning the litter box, refilling your pet's water, or taking your pet for a walk. Keep your child on a schedule and show him or her the value of taking care of another living being. The emotional connection to a pet ...

6 Free Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Kids

By: Stephanie Osorno
Father's Day Gift Ideas for Kids

Parents deserve a pat on the back for the countless things that they do for their children on a daily basis. We especially praise the parents amongst the virtual school community for not only being loving moms and dads, but also for serving as supportive Learning Coaches.

A parent holiday, such as the upcoming Father’s Day holiday, is a great opportunity for sons and daughters to show their parents appreciation. Since kids might not be able to purchase a gift on their own, we have some other ways that they can say thank you on Father’s Day!

  1. Write a letter.
    It can be tough for anyone to verbally express their feelings, but it might be even more difficult for children who are still learning about their emotions. Instead, children can express themselves by writing a special letter to Dad. He will be able to keep the letter forever and reread it as much as he would like. And it doesn’t have to be a formal letter. Kids of all ages can list all of the reasons why they love and appreciate their father. Dad will treasure this sweet gesture!

  2. Make a craft.
    You can never go wrong with a homemade craft! Gifts tend to be more meaningful when they’re handmade rather than store-bought. If the student isn’t very crafty, Mom can provide some assistance and reassure the child that the gift doesn’t have to be anything too complicated. Even if it’s a simple drawing, it will ...

Fill a Summer of Fun with Sidewalk Chalk Activities

By: Beth Werrell
Activities with Sidewalk Chalk

As summer approaches, creating a plan to keep your child active and learning is important. As you help to keep your child focused until summer break, start gathering ideas for the warm weather.

One item that can get you and your child through the summer months is sidewalk chalk. It’s a fun, simple solution for summer days when no activities have been planned. With sidewalk chalk, your child can broaden his or her education, push creative boundaries, and keep his or her body moving.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

Brainy Sidewalk Chalk Ideas

Print out a constellation chart and have your child pick a few constellations. Then have him or her lay the star pattern on the sidewalk using pennies or other small objects. Connecting the dots with sidewalk chalk creates the full picture.

Draw life-size dinosaurs with real measurements using a dinosaur database and a tape measure. Have your child choose one large dinosaur and one smaller dinosaur, if space allows. Measure out the length and width of each dinosaur on a driveway or parking lot, and mark each measurement point. Then, using a photograph for reference, help your child draw out the dinosaur within your marked measurements.

Build your child’s memory with an updated game of Simon. Start with four different colors of sidewalk chalk. Build out your Simon play area by sectioning out your colors into four sections in a circle. Be sure to leave an uncolored hole in the middle of ...

7 Projects to Teach Your Child about Sustainable Gardening

By: Tracy Ostwald Kowald

Gardening is a summer activity the whole family can participate in. It's also a great way to introduce your child to sustainable gardening practices that benefit the environment. Here are some ideas to get you and your child started as spring brings the warm weather and rain your garden will need.

Garden Recycling Ideas

Repurposing items can be one way to include sustainable practices in your garden. Making container planters from household items can bring out the creative side in you and your family.

1. Have an old tool kit lying around the house that you've been meaning to replace? After emptying the toolbox, grab the drill and make a few holes in the bottom before adding the soil.

2. An old kitchen strainer with small holes is nearly ready-made to be a planter. Just have your child line the bottom of the strainer with a few coffee filters to hold the soil in the container. After that, you're ready to start planting.

3. Baskets make ideal planters because of their small outlets for water. You can even have your child paint his or her basket with outdoor paint for a fun, personal touch.

4. Old shoes can be converted into outdoor planters in a few simple steps. Click the image below for a fun shoe planter how-to.

Rainwater Harvesting

Rain barrels can be used to trap and store rainwater for garden watering. This helps the environment by reducing the energy used to ...

Family Game Night: Using Board Games to Improve Students’ Critical Thinking Skills

By: Stephanie Osorno
Improve Critical Thinking with Board Games

Chances are, wherever you live, that there's a shelf or a closet with a stack of board games waiting to be dug out and opened for family game night. Whether it's a low-key weekend, a snowy or rainy day, or an after-dinner activity, board games are often a go-to social activity for children and adults.

You may think that board games are simply a great way to entertain your child, but they can also serve to foster learning by boosting his or her critical thinking skills! If you're looking to make family game night fun and educational, we have some tips and suggestions for finding the right game for your family.

How Can Board Games Help Students with Critical Thinking?

Board games that deal with major subjects such as English, math, and history can be a useful source for students to practice essential academic concepts. Here are some ways board games can stimulate critical thinking:

  • Game rules often make things a little tricky. Students will have to put their thinking caps on and figure out a way to score points while still abiding by the rules. This will help with problem-solving skills.
  • Board games are all about strategizing and planning ahead. Not only do students have to focus on what they're doing, but they also have to pay attention to the moves their opponents are making!
  • Many games require players to think and make decisions quickly. This is a greatly beneficial skill for school tests and quizzes.
  • Logic ...

Teach Your Children about Water Sustainability for Earth Month

By: Beth Werrell

In honor of Earth Month in April, teach your child the importance of water conservation. One way to start this discussion is to learn more about freshwater scarcity. With 97 percent of the world’s water supply being salt water, and with many people without access to fresh water, water conservation is a great way to make an impact globally.

One route to freshwater sustainability is water desalination, or removing the salt from salt water. There are more than 16,000 desalination plants1 across the globe currently, and that number is still growing. To begin learning how desalination occurs, click the image below for instructions on how to create freshwater from salt water using a few household items.

What Is Water Scarcity?

Water scarcity occurs when there is not enough drinking water to meet the needs of the population in a given area. Since most of the planet’s water is salt water, is frozen freshwater, or is not accessible, this leaves some areas high and dry.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Fresh Water?

Freshwater is an essential part of life. Water helps nutrients and oxygen in the bloodstream move around the body. Humans are generally made up of about 45 to 65 percent water.

Freshwater is a key to good health. When your body doesn’t have enough water, it is dehydrated. Dehydration can keep you from doing your best at sports, school, and whatever else the day may throw ...

Take the Digital Learning Day Online STEM Trivia Challenge

By: Stephanie Osorno

Mathematician, scientist, engineer, computer technician—does your child aspire to pursue any of these careers in the future? Is he or she interested in these disciplines, or does he or she enjoy learning about them? If you answered yes, then encourage your student to try our new STEM-themed QuizBowl trivia challenge, just in time for Digital Learning Day on March 13 and for Pi Day on March 14!

What Is STEM?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM education is a unique, hands-on learning approach that combines each field, rather than separating them into individual classifications. This interdisciplinary and applied way of learning is designed to focus on skills that students will eventually need in order to be successful in the workforce.

STEM-themed Online Trivia Game

What better way to celebrate Digital Learning Day than trying this year’s QuizBowl trivia challenge? The QuizBowl is a fun way for your child to learn more and test his or her STEM knowledge without the pressure of a course grade or assessment.

The challenge includes twenty STEM-themed trivia questions that will quickly get the brain fueling. After taking the quiz, your student might even want to research some of the topics further or discuss them in more detail—it could stimulate an exciting academic conversation or new interest.

And it’s not just for students; the quiz is for all ages, so you can take it too and have a little friendly competition ...

Measuring the Transition between Winter and Spring

By: Beth Werrell
How to Measure Snow and Rain

Can you believe that our clocks are springing forward this weekend? And with spring being right around the corner, you don’t have much longer to enjoy the snow and frosty air. Use the changing seasons as a way to teach your student how to track weather changes with this fun weather measurement activity.

What Weather Metrics Do We Measure

Before you start experimenting, go over these measurable weather vocabulary terms with your student.

  • Temperature: A measurement of heat or coldness in an object. Temperature can be measured with a thermometer on three different scales: Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin.
  • Precipitation: Liquid and solid particles that fall from the clouds. Snow, rain, hail, and sleet are all examples of precipitation.
  • Wind speed: A measure of air movement with respect to the earth’s surface.
  • Cloud cover: The fraction or percentage of the sky that is covered by clouds, as viewed from one location.
  • Air pressure: The weight of air pressing down on your body and the earth’s surface.
  • Humidity: The measurement of water vapor in the air.
  • Sunshine: The amount of direct light from the sun.
Weather Experimenting Time

Snow and Rain Gauge

As spring approaches, the rain begins to wash away the snow. What a great way for a math in nature activity and measuring the changing temperatures with your student! Here’s a simple way to get started with a snow and rain gauge to measure precipitation.

You’ll need

  • One clear glass or plastic jar
  • One ruler
  • One notebook
  • Graph paper
  • Colored ...

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