At-Home Activities for Virtual Summer School
Many schools are turning to online learning models this summer to deliver fun and educational summer school classes. But even when you can’t see your students face-to-face, you can still find ways to connect with learners through at-home activities.
The themed topics below are designed to use a combination of virtual instruction and take-home learning packets to inspire healthy living, cultivate kindness and creativity, spark an interest in STEM, and encourage a love of reading.
Hungry for Healthy Habits
- Healthy Living: The last part of the school year has been stressful for teachers and students alike. Teach kids how to take care of their mental and physical health with Healthy Tips Bookmarks. Talk about strategies for decreasing stress and increasing focus, the importance of exercise, getting plenty of sleep, and other ways to stay healthy. Have students share their strategies and track their healthy habits for a week. They can also design their own bookmarks or posters to share their strategies with others.
- Physical Activity: With good weather and sunshine, the pull to get outside and play sports is strong. Learners can discover more about their favorite sports with Sports Fun Facts Bookmarks (for instance, swimming was one of the first Olympic sports back in 1896) and get inspired to do their own research. Have students make up the rules to a new sport and name their sport. Then have them try practicing with family members. Students can share their sports adventures on a class Padlet.
- Food: Much of our day revolves around meals and food. Encourage learners to explore the foods we eat by learning fun facts (did you know that it takes 10 pounds of milk to make just one pound of cheese?). Have them research their own fun facts about their favorite foods and plan virtual or real gardens.
Virtual gardens can be plotted out to scale and labeled on paper, but you can also give students the chance to grow herbs or other garden plants by sending home seeds and small cardboard planters filled with dirt. Have students snap photos or draw their plant at each stage as it grows.
Get crafty with the art of paper folding by sending home origami and kirigami paper for kids to try their hand at creating origami food and bowls. Kids can also create flower gardens with origami or kirigami designs.
Students can build confidence and try their hand at making simple recipes with Cookmarks Bookmarks (including homemade ice cream — because we all need a treat once in a while). Encourage them to also create and send you their favorite recipes and compile an end-of-summer digital cookbook to share with the class.
Reward students with the tantalizing smells of lemon, peach, and pineapple scratch-and-sniff stickers and scented bookmarks (peaches, s’mores, creamsicle, peppermint, and more).
Take a Learning Journey
Just because students are learning from home doesn’t mean you can’t send them on a learning journey.
- National Parks: Explore America’s national parks through pictures, intriguing Fun Facts Bookmarks, virtual visits, and live webcams. Then have students choose their favorite park and create a diorama of the park using shoeboxes and craft supplies such as craft sticks, chenille stems, pom-pons, colored paper, paint, cardboard, and recyclables.
- Reading Journey: Encourage readers to travel around the United States with their own Read Your Way Across the USA student booklets and stickers. Challenge them to read a book set in each state or read a book by an author from each state. Or use this idea for a poetry unit and discover travel-themed poetry and poetry celebrating cities. Have students write poems celebrating their own cities or towns or write poems based on interesting words that are specific to their location.
- Homes Around the World: Explore homes around the world through picture books such as If You Lived Here: Houses of the World by Giles Laroche, Homes by Carson Ellis, and Homes Around the World by Max Moore. Then send home the Makeables Tiny Towns cut-and-color activity sheets (50 per pack) to let kids design their own homes or even whole towns by adding cardboard trees, painting roads, and more! Have students share their unique homes and city poems in a class Padlet. If they have the cell phone technology, have kids tell a story by creating a stop-motion video using mini-figures in their towns.
- Far and Away: To head even farther from home, learn about the different countries featured on Wanderlust Bookmarks, such as Scotland, Tanzania, or Vietnam. Students can create Google Slides presentations on their country of choice listing goods, crops, clothing, language, and customs from their chosen country. Budding chefs can also team up with parents or caregivers to try cooking a traditional food from their country.
- Design a Wild Ride: It may not be possible to visit an amusement park, but kids can make their own! Share the Caine’s Arcade video with students and inspire them to create their own arcade games or amusement park rides using cardboard and duct tape or Makedo tools.
- Animal Investigations: From pets to wildlife, nothing intrigues kids more than the animal world. Animal Fun Facts Bookmarks offer a jumping-off point for animal studies with interesting facts about furry, feathered, and scaly friends. Learn which animal has no brain and no blood, which animal has the largest eyes of any land animal, and which animal can eat up to 1,000 mice per year.
Have students choose another animal to investigate, and then have them create and share a Google Slides presentation that includes four interesting facts about it. If you want, focus the list of animals on endangered species. After students share their presentations, have them create posters imploring people to save their animal.
Ever wondered how bats see in the dark? Find out with How Do? Bookmarks. Then create a Padlet for students to enter their own “I wonder …” questions. Each student can choose one topic from the list to research and create a Google Slides presentation explaining the answer to the “I wonder …” statement.
- Critter Crafts: Send kids Cool Critters Mini Activity Cards and craft supplies to give them a plethora screen-free at-home activities. These include making giraffe puppets out of paper bags, toilet paper tube butterflies, animal-themed games of 20 questions, and more!
Kids will also get a kick out of creating animals through the art of origami with Animals Origami Bookmarks, which provide the paper and instructions and walk them through each step. Then, have students draw or create a habitat for their origami animal use a cell phone to create a stop-motion video.
To create realistic drawings, kids can follow the step-by-step instructions on the How to Draw Animals Bookmarks. Have them research the animal’s habitat and add their own backgrounds. They can share their drawings and a few fun facts about their animals on a class Flipgrid.
Get the buzz on insects by sharing Nat Geo Kids Insects Playlist with students. Review the different parts of an insect and discuss the important role they play in our ecosystem, then have students head outside and go on an insect hunt and write down all the insects they see. They can then create their own flying critters with Makeables Insect Bookmarks, which come in packs of 50.
Find more ideas in “5 Animal Activities Kids Will Love,” and cap off your class with creature rewards such as Big Mouth Bookmarks, Cool Critters Stickers, or Woodland Animals Stickers.
Full STEAM Ahead!
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Get kids thinking about how they can help preserve our planet’s natural resources. Talk about renewable and nonrenewable energy and the different ways that we use those resources during the day (packaged food, driving, taking showers, turning on lights, etc.). Then, have students brainstorm ways they could help preserve our natural resources. Provide Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Bookmarks as reminders of how they can help.
Have students track their resource consumption for a few days by writing down all the ways they use resources during the day (brushing teeth, flushing the toilet, turning on the lights, taking a car to the store, etc.). Then, challenge them to find ways to limit the resources they use and track it for another couple days. Were they able to reduce their consumption? How?
- Young Engineers: Extend the environmental focus by challenging students to design a machine that saves water or electricity (they can let their imaginations run wild). Have them draw their machine or create it out of recyclables and then explain to the class how it works.
To encourage more spatial learning, deliver a weekly challenge to young builders with Design & Build Maker Task Cards. While originally designed for the classroom, many of the activities can be adapted using simple materials kids can find at home, such as designing and building a maze or creating a marble tower out of recyclables. Download sample cards to see more ideas.
Inspire kids to camp out indoors by challenging them to create tents using furniture, blankets, and pillows. Have them take flashlights inside their tents and write or read for half an hour. They can report back on what challenges they ran into when building their forts (blankets fell, walls wouldn’t stay up) and how they fixed them.
- Coding Robots: Introduce kids to coding by having them pair up with someone in their household and turn themselves into custom-made robots with Robot Mask Makeables. Then they can create codes and “program” each other. To start, one person should be the robot and the other should create the code. The person doing the coding should make a key of different types of symbols to represent actions to guide their robots. For example, a green arrow means move forward quickly, a yellow arrow means move forward slowly, a purple circle means spin around in a circle, and so on. Using their key, have the programmer write different symbols on letter-size pieces of paper and lay the symbols down in different configurations on the floor. The “robot” should then follow the sheets of coding laid out by the programmer. Next, they should switch roles.
- Explore Space: Send home Space Fun Facts Bookmarks to spark kids’ natural curiosity about the world around them. Then, keep the learning going with these fun space activities, like learning about the phases of the moon and creating your own craters, which are easy to adapt for virtual learning.
Kids will also get a blast out of learning about life on the International Space Station from the astronauts who live there. Talk about gravity and how it affects objects. Then discuss gravity on Earth compared to the other planets, and challenge kids to figure out how much they would weigh on each of the other planets in our solar system.
- At-Home Science Projects: How To Bookmarks show kids how to do fun projects at home, including a homemade lava lamp, tornado in a jar, and a paper airplane. Challenge them to see how far their paper airplanes can fly and to measure 10 attempts. Then have them figure out the average distance their airplanes flew.
- Color Craze: Nothing calms a kid (or an adult) more than spending some time coloring. Have students show off their unique flair with a variety of themed coloring sheets, bookmarks, and posters.
- Shape Shifters: Teach 3D geometric shapes with Makeables Shapes. Let kids cut and color their shapes, create themes for each side of their shapes (all about me, my pets, or my interests), and then cut and assemble them. Have them look for these same shapes around the house and make a list of where they found them. They can also try to recreate the 3D shapes using small play dough balls and toothpicks.
- Basket Weaving: Weaving is an ancient craft and is done by humans and the animal kingdom alike. Share books such as Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward or Charlie Needs a Cloak by Tomie dePaola, and give students a chance to try their hand at weaving with Roylco Basket Bases. These precut bases make it easy for kids as young as seven to create a basket using yarn, paper strips, or raffia. With packs of 24, you can supply learning packets of one base and weaving supplies for each student.
Kindness Makes the World Go ‘Round
Especially during these stressful times, it’s important to take time to focus on social-emotional health for ourselves and others. Too much time on screens can make it difficult for any of us to focus. Try providing fidget folders for kids to keep their hands busy and their minds focused on the lesson.
- Focus on Yourself and Others: Take Time Bookmarks remind students that it’s important to wonder, laugh, dream, relax, share, be kind, care, and help. Create a bingo board with these activities and challenge students to take time during the week to focus on each of them.
To achieve some of these, they can use Kindness Cards or Affirmation Cards, which feature inspirational quotes and messages to brighten someone’s day. They can draw a picture, write an encouraging message, or write a thank-you note and leave it in a friend or neighbor’s mailbox or deliver it to a local nursing home.
- Talk It Out: Get kids thinking and talking about their feelings at the start or end of class by rolling Emoji Cubes or Let’s Talk Cubes on your video call and having kids take turns relaying their experiences. If kids are too shy to share on camera, roll the die at the end of class and assign the prompt as a writing assignment for the next class period.
- Reflection: There’s no doubt that 2020 is shaping up to be a time in our lives that we’ll always remember. Encourage students to get in touch with their feelings and also set down some memories for future generations in reflection journals. This is a good opportunity to discuss primary sources and talk about how they are actually creating a primary source that could be used by future historians.
Include daily prompts such as the following:
- What’s different in your life now from before the pandemic?
- How does it feel to not be able to spend time with your friends in person?
- How is school different now? Do you like it more or less? Why?
- What will you remember most about this time of quarantine?
- What will you tell your kids or future generations about the COVID-19 pandemic?
- What is something positive that came out of the pandemic?
- What was your favorite thing you did with your family during the pandemic?
- What are you most worried about right now?
- What are three things you’d like to ask a teacher or a parent?
- What new skill did you learn or what are you proud of that you did recently?
- Character and Kindness: Talk about what it means to have good character and to recognize good character traits in others. Then, create a warm fuzzies Padlet with each student’s name in a column. Ask each student to write one nice thing about each of the other students under their headings. In the end, each student should have a “warm fuzzy” from every other student (they can remain anonymous).
- Celebrate You: Encourage kids to celebrate themselves with Color Craze ME Posters and Stickers. They can customize them by using their coloring skills and by adding stickers that celebrate their unique personalities and interests.
Make Reading and Writing Exciting
- Reading Comprehension: Forget boring old worksheets; dive into dissecting a book with Reading Comprehension Cubes or Retell a Story Cubes. After reading a book or story together, roll the die on screen and choose a student to answer the question. You can also use the cubes as writing prompts for books or stories you’re reading as a class or independently. To involve students, choose a student each time to tell you the number of rolls you should do from one to six before you land on your daily question.
- Writing Prompts: Can’t think of what to write about? Roll these dice on-screen to assign a daily writing prompt, or roll two at a time and let students choose which prompt they want to write about. Will it be a story about the beach? A nightmare they had? Or maybe a story about being able to fly? Color Craze Journals provide coloring distractions to give kids time to work through their writer’s block.
- Nonfiction Fun: Sometimes real life is more interesting than fiction. With Exploring Nonfiction Bookmarks, students can learn about great white sharks, the northern lights, and more. Once they have a taste for real-life oddities, encourage them to explore books about their passions, such as great artists, animals, sports, or video games. For the truly curious, have them research phenomena like Easter Island, Stonehenge, or crop circles.
- Get Silly: Start your video lessons with a joke of the day and keep the class giggling by sending home Joke Bookmarks. Then, challenge kids to design their own humorous bookmarks with (clean) jokes or illustrate jokes they read and share them with the class. Create a list of humorous books that can be picked up from the library or read on digital platforms and have them report back on the funniest parts.
Keep Up the Great Work!
However you’re delivering your lessons this year, teaching probably looks a little different than you’re used to. Remember: You’re doing the best you can and you still have the ability to engage students and support their learning and their mental health — and that’s something to be proud of!