1. Read. Our local libraries are amazing places and wonderfully cool on hot days. Holland's Herrick District Library has lot of summer activities planned and so does the Saugatuck Douglas Library. The Kent District Library in Grand Rapids does too if your family is up for a little reading road trip. Best of all, they are all free. Another free online resource is the Michigan Electronic Library's kids section.
Your family can also sign up for Epic Books and have unlimited access to all kinds of digital books for your iPad or tablet. Think of it like Netflix for books with tons of the best titles like Big Nate and Bad Kitty. Epic is $4.99 per month and the first month is free. That's less than a pizza and whether you like fiction or non-fiction, there is something for everybody.
2. Practice Math Facts. Teaching and learning are a lot like playing sports. Professional football players don't just sit around all summer waiting for training camp. They are doing something everyday to become faster, stronger, and smarter. Whether it's running, lifting weights, or perfecting how to better cover a pass, they know without it, they won't be successful. The same is true with math facts. The more they become automatic, the more you can move on to more exciting stuff. Spend time on IXL and XtraMath this summer building your speed, strength, and brain. Here is the Blue Star IXL login.
3. Build Something. One of the main reasons we do math is so we can make cool stuff. Anybody can be a worksheet monkey but is really special to do something with your math skills. Whether you are just nailing wood together on a workbench or creating your own iPad speakers you have to be able to measure your pieces and solve equations. Check out Instructables.com and you will be amazed at all of the projects from simple to mind-blowing. Most even use things you just have lying around the house.
4. Get Outside and Explore. Did you know that in Michigan you are never more than six miles from water? West Michigan is literally one of the best places on earth to spend the summer. Whether it is a visit to a park, the woods, or the beach there are great places to explore just minutes from your house. The Shore Acres Park near the Felt Mansion has all of that and more. Walk the trails and check out the different trees and then look for fossils, sea glass, and special rocks on beach. The Lake Michigan Rock Picker's Guide is a great book for identifying what you find. Here is a cool blog with some other information. Pier Cove, Westside County Park, Douglas Beach, and Laketown Beach are all free and close by.
5. Grow Something and Eat It. You might live on a big farm or you might live in a tiny apartment, but everyone has enough room for a flower pot or planter. Go big on a whole garden or just spend a buck or two on some green bean seeds and plant them in sturdy pot. Give them water and sun and soon you will have a beanstalk offering up a crisp healthy snack. Gardening Fundamentals is a great place to start. Print out the journal to track your gardening.
6. Learn to Code. Why just play video games when you can learn an entire new language and build your own? Visit CODE.org and work on a couple of challenges like the Mindcraft, Star Wars or Frozen ones. If you get caught by the coding bug, keep going and try one of their 20 Hour Courses. There is something for every grade level from pre-school on up. Completing these courses will actually give you a nice boost on a career in computer science or set you up to build your own game.
7. Catch the Olympic Spirit. The world's best athletes are headed to Rio de Janeiro in August for the 2016 summer Olympics. Sharpen your geography and boost your knowledge by digging into the history of the games, researching your favorite athletes, and making the flags you find most interesting. Teachervision.com has a great site for getting started. NBC will provide hundreds of hours of coverage but you don't have to wait until August. Check out NBCOlympics.com now to learn all about what is coming up from Rio.
8. Play60. Just go outside and play. You don't have to spend money going to a sports or summer camp. It doesn't even matter if there are any other kids around either. Speaking of Olympics, set up your own events even if you just draw a line, pick up a rock, and jump as far as you can. Set the rock down next to where your back heel landed. Try to beat it. If you want to do some moving with a pro athlete, check out Washington Redskins' Ryan Kerrigan leading some agility activities from Discovery Education and the NFL. Getting creative outside is great for mind and body.
9. Go new places. If you have opportunity to take a trip, understand how lucky you are to be getting out and experiencing new places. Just paying attention to how the scenery changes or the importance of physical and human-created landmarks is the best social studies lesson anybody can have. Even if it doesn't work out for your family to embark on an epic journey just go somewhere different like a park you've never explored. Try to unplug as much as possible but if you are going to bring along a device use it to capture and then share the adventure. Here are some great apps for that.
Our summer vacation is something we can't take for granted. Find a nice balance of recovering from this school year, resting up for the next one, and finding ways to keep your brain firing while you make it the best one ever!