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Focus on Family with This List of Summertime Activities

By: Stephanie Osorno
Summer Activities for Virtual School Families

Learning doesn't only happen when a student opens a textbook or completes a schoolwork assignment. Knowledge growth can happen year-round from a variety of activities, including games and tasks that feel vastly different from the traditional notion of learning.

Now here's the question: what's better than learning via fun activities and games? Even though it's not mandatory for a student's success, getting the entire family involved can make learning even more engaging. A 2010 study on school improvement found that elementary students with strong family engagement were ten times more likely to improve in math and four times more likely to improve in reading than students with weak family engagement.

Summer is no time to lose balance between family time and education. Get the whole family involved in learning activities this summer. Try one of the popular options below!

Educational Board Games for Kids and Families

Is a rainy day keeping you cooped up inside? Think of it as the perfect opportunity to play a family board game that improves your student's critical thinking skills. 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 with their family beside them—yes, even in the summertime!

Read our blog post on educational family game nights to explore new game ideas for students of every age—in elementary school, middle school, and even high school.

Outdoor PE Activities for Grades K–12

Now let's consider the opposite scenario—it's a beautiful ...

Geology Lesson for Kids: What Happens Inside a Volcano?

By: Beth Werrell

Volcanic eruptions are a rare yet fascinating natural phenomenon. There are, on average, 35 volcanic eruptions every year. Many kids know about volcanoes in general, but how they work is often an intriguing mystery. What happens inside the earth when a volcano erupts?

Looking inside the earth’s layers can uncover this and spark a sense of wonder in your student. To create your own volcano in the comfort of your home, explore the instructographic below for a safe, fun (and slightly messy) activity.

Inside the Earth’s Crust

Understanding volcanoes starts with understanding the structure of the earth. The outer part of the earth that we see, called the crust, is the top layer of many layers. Underneath the crust are bigger and hotter layers that lead to the center of the earth, the core. Within these layers are huge sections called tectonic plates, which we explain in more detail below. At the bottom of the crust, before we get to the deeper layers, is where we find hot liquid rock called magma, which might be beneath massive amounts pressure.

Tectonic Plates, Magma, Friction, and Pressure

Tectonic plates are parts of the crust that act like giant puzzle pieces. The plates have the ability to move, and when they do, they create problems—like earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes. These natural disasters happen because the movement of the plates cause friction. That friction can create pressure on the magma, and the magma can no longer stay ...

Take the Summer Olympics Quiz Bowl Trivia Challenge

By: Stephanie Osorno

Whether you’re an athlete or not, you can train your brain for the Olympic Games! Every few years we are able to root for the United States as we watch dedicated athletes from around the world compete against each other in the Olympic Games—and now you and your family can join in the excitement and praise with Connections Academy’s Olympic-themed Quiz Bowl trivia challenge.

What better way to prepare for and celebrate the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, than by testing your Olympic knowledge? Our summer Quiz Bowl includes 20 trivia questions that will get the brain fueling and help build enthusiasm for the main event. Taking the quiz is also a fun way to learn more about the legacy and history of the Summer Olympic Games, as it often stimulates a positive and interesting educational discussion.

Participating in the Quiz Bowl challenge could be especially exciting for online students who are taking advantage of the scheduling flexibility in virtual school to train for the Olympics themselves. The best part is that the challenge is for all ages, so the whole family can take it together for a friendly and fun competition! Students can also share it with friends. The quiz is available online, but if you prefer to take it on paper, you can download the printable version.

We hope you'll use this quiz to make dinnertime, a car ride, or summer ...

A Long List of Science Projects to Try This Summer

By: Stephanie Osorno
Summer Science Projects for Kids

Does your student love science? It’s a fascinating subject with countless learning opportunities. From science experiments you can conduct using materials in your home, to interesting research that applies to everyday life, science is all around us. Why not take advantage of it this summer?

Over the years, Connections Academy® has posted many science-themed blogs and instructographics, and we've noticed how well-liked they tend to be. Below, we've compiled a list of some of our most popular science activities. Pick one to try with your family this summer!

Kitchen Science for Kids: Making a Battery Out of a Lemon

It’s fun for kids to be able to see with their own eyes how a simple circuit can carry enough electricity to power a small lightbulb. This simple experiment is inexpensive and easy to do at home, and it's a great introduction to the power of electricity. As your kids get older, there are plenty of ways to add onto this do-it-yourself activity, such as making multiple circuits or developing a switch that can power your lightbulb on and off.

Give this simple kitchen science experiment a try.

Experiment with Musical Water Glasses

Did you know that sound travels about four to five times faster in water than in air? That means water can affect the speed at which the sound waves are traveling and vibrating.

Although this activity is simple, it's a great way to exercise both your student's science skills and musical abilities. There's even a way to ...

Fourth of July Education for Kids

By: Beth Werrell

Most American families are familiar with the festivities of Independence Day. In fact, 63% of people attend a fireworks display and 76% get together with family. With the busyness of the day, it's easy to forget to discuss the symbolism behind the day, especially with young children who don't yet understand.

This time of year is perfect for a history lesson teaching kids the meaning behind July 4th and why we celebrate the day. The information in this blog post should help get you started. As an added bonus, view the instructographic below for a fun activity you can use during your Independence Day celebrations.

The Declaration of Independence

Before the first Fourth of July, five men (Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, and Thomas Jefferson) were tasked with writing a document explaining why America was declaring its independence from the British. Thomas Jefferson was chosen to write the first draft, and the first version was officially signed and adopted on July 4, 1776.

In the document, which still exists today, the 13 original colonies explained why they wanted to be free from the British. The document listed all of the bad acts the British king had committed against the colonies and made clear what the colonies felt their rights were, including "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

It was with this document that the United States officially became free.

The Liberty Bell

After the Declaration of Independence was signed ...

Summer Reading for the Gifted Student

By: Gintas Bradunas
Keep Gifted Students Reading All Summer

If you're the parent of a gifted and talented student or a student who reads above grade level, you may want to begin the summer by reading your child his or her rights. No, not their "right to remain silent," but rather their summer reading rights! "You have the right to read and to not read. You have the right to skip, to browse, and to explore. You have the right to read anything."

These are great words to use when kicking off summer reading for a gifted student. As students blessed with endless curiosity, gifted students will read when given books that challenge, that tap into their imaginations and spark their interest. But how do you find such a book? How can you draw a gifted and talented student away from video games and into the worlds of words and endless creation?

Start by exploring some outstanding reading lists that make finding books for gifted students easier. Many of the links that follow were developed by Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, an organization devoted to the development of exceptional students' talents. The recommended books also may be appropriate for other students reading above grade level—or for reading aloud as a family.

As you review these lists, remember that each gifted student is unique and will find different books stimulate their interests. Allow your students the space to explore, to create, and by the end of summer, they may have their own recommendations to contribute to next year's reading ...

6 Learning Ideas to Prevent Summer Brain Drain

By: Stephanie Osorno
Avoid Summer Brain Drain

School's out and the sun's out—yes, summer is here. For many children, summertime is when books collect dust and the "break" from learning begins. While fun and refreshing, this break has downsides: it can lead to the dreaded "summer brain drain"—a time when learning and engagement decide to hibernate until fall.

This doesn't have to happen. Even during the summer months, students can continue to learn, accomplish their educational goals, and expand their creativity. Here are some entertaining summer activities to keep students engaged all season long:

Start a blog.

Does your child love writing? Summer is the perfect time to start a blog. Blogs are a great place to unleash creativity. Best of all, since blogs are digital, they can easily be shared with family and friends to keep them up to date on your child's adventures and learnings. Topic ideas can span anything and everything—from simple "day in the life" posts to your child's inner thoughts and feelings to fictional storytelling. The purpose is to be creative and enjoy the writing process.

Some blog tools or platforms are free and extremely user-friendly. These include Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger, Medium, and more. We recommend that you supervise to ensure that your child posts only appropriate material and adheres to online safety practices.

If you want to avoid the "digital" component of a blog, simply encourage your children to write in a journal. They can keep their writing to themselves or share it with others to read.

Turn a family ...

How Summer School Works in Private Virtual School

By: Stephanie Osorno
Benefits of Virtual Summer School

As the spring semester comes to a close, you might be considering summer school options for your student. Online summer courses can be beneficial for many reasons, including gaining credits to accelerate graduation, retaking a course without falling behind, catching up because of a busy schedule, or simply continuing to enjoy learning throughout the summer.

You may already know that International Connections Academy (iNaCA), Connections Academy's online private school option, can be a great choice for students who live in a state that does not offer a Connections Academy®—supported public school, or for students who live abroad, but did you know that it can also be a great option for summer school?

iNaCA's flexible online summer school program offers students in grades K–12 a wide range of courses—with certified online teachers—at an affordable price. To familiarize yourself with iNaCA's summer school program, read below and learn how iNaCA's summer courses benefited four students!

Getting Ahead of Schedule: Emma Gaydos

Emma Gaydos is a current student at Colorado Connections Academy. She spends a lot of her time on fun hobbies such as writing and playing tennis.

Emma has taken summer courses with iNaCA for two years in a row. She decided to take a geometry and an algebra course so she could get a head start on precalculus as a sophomore. Now she will be able to take AP®* Calculus next year. She would like to be two years ahead in school, and taking summer courses ...

Step into Nature’s Classroom This Summer

By: Beth Werrell
How to Become a Citizen-Scientist

Did you know that there are millions of as-yet unidentified plants, animals, and other organisms living on our planet today, or that many will become extinct before we even know they exist? What if you could help scientists discover those species while exploring the outdoors, learning more about plant and animal life, and meeting other aspiring citizen scientists and student scientists in your own community?

Welcome to BioBlitz 2016!

What Is a Bioblitz?

A bioblitz is a timed event, usually 24–48 hours, during which scientists, teachers, families, and students work together to identify and catalogue plants, animals, and other organisms living in a certain area such as a park, a stream, or even a city neighborhood. These citizen scientists then upload that information along with photos to the free iNaturalist app so professional scientists and ordinary citizens alike can easily share knowledge about life on our planet. (The app is available as a free download for both Android and iPhone.)

Ecologists can use the information collected to map and protect endangered species. Hikers can use it to avoid poisonous plants. Park rangers can use it to identify and remove invasive species that threaten local habitats. Ordinary people around the country can use it to learn what's growing in their own backyards.

In celebration of the National Park Service's (NPS's) one-hundredth anniversary, the NPS and the National Geographic Society will be hosting hundreds of organized bioblitz events in parks around the United States throughout the year. You can be part of ...

Nature Scavenger Hunt Bingo for Families

By: Beth Werrell

Bright colors, lively critters, bird cries, wild, pungent aromas, and budding life. There's so much to discover and observe as the summer days grow longer and new life emerges. Whether you have your next big adventure planned or your summer will be spent at home, you can spice up family time with a nature bingo scavenger hunt. Teach your child how to appreciate and observe nature with these simple bingo cards the entire family can use.

How to Use Your Nature Scavenger Hunt Bingo Cards

Going to the beach? These scavenger hunt bingo cards are perfect for that. Going for a stroll through the park? You can bring your bingo cards there, too! They can go everywhere with you. Follow the simple instructions below to make your cards, and then stick them in your busy bag for your next adventure.

  1. Print your bingo card pages on stock paper or another thick material.
  2. Cut out each scavenger hunt item individually.
  3. Stick Velcro dots on the back of each item, and then stick the other side of your Velcro dots into each square on your blank bingo card.
  4. Change out your bingo items as your destinations change.
  5. When you and your little scavengers hunt for items, peel each item off your board as you find it.

Tip: Glue your bingo board to the outside of a brown bag with handles. This will make it easier to keep track of the board ...

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