Summer Brain Boosts
By Megan M. Allen
(Megan Allen is the 2010 Florida Teacher of the Year.)

(I've added the links. If it's underlined, click it and the site should open in a new window -Ms. Stierman)

In the words of Alice Cooper, “School’s out for summer!” So what to do with your little learners?

Summer is a great time to expand your thinker’s brain and to experience new things as a family. Here is my top ten list of fun, summer ideas:

10) Go to your public library. Time spent reading is the best predictor for future reading achievement (Allington, 2006; Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding, 1988). This also prevents summer slip back, where students experience reading level loss during the summer months. Libraries also offer great free story times, crafts, and activities. Check it out!

9) Get involved with Scholastic’s “Read for the World Record.”  Have your reader join online and work with others to try and break the world record for most minutes read in the summer. Now that’s healthy competition!

8) Barnes and Noble has a fantastic “Passport to Summer Reading” program. Your child signs up online, reads ANY eight books, prints and fills out the passport, then takes it in to your local Barnes and Noble to get a free book. Too cool!

7) Visit your city recreation centers. From inexpensive art programs and summer sports, there is a myriad of opportunities. And research shows that art and physical activity help with brain development, as well as creativity, problem solving, and social skills. It’s a no brainer!

6) Cook together. From the literacy skills of writing down a grocery list, to reading labels together in the store, to measuring out ingredients, cooking is a mecca of learning experiences! Not to mention the most priceless ingredient...doing something together as a family.

5) Have your own summer science camp. Make each week a different scientific theme: water science, earth science, food science, weather, air...Find experiments from library books or online for each day of the week!

4) Check out the educational offerings online. Some of my favorites: webcams to view wild animals such as www.africam.com, listening to celebrities such as James Earl Jones and Amanda Bynes read well-known books on www.storylineonline.net, or following and blogging with Polar scientists on http://icestories.exploratorium.edu/dispatches/. There is so much out there, but make sure to know exactly what your child is doing on the web!

3) Get creative on the cheap. Turn cardboard boxes into forts, pirate ships, biomes...travel to distant worlds, right from your living room.

2) Check out county, state, and national parks in your area. There is so much available for your family to explore...springs, hiking trails, kayaking, picnicking. Pack up the car and find adventure on the cheap!

1) Get into your own backyard! There is a world of adventure waiting right outside your door. Draw and journal plant and animal species, identify backyard wildlife with field guides from the library, plant a butterfly or vegetable garden, or begin your own compost heap and worm farm! I recently got 15 square feet of wildflower seeds at my local superstore for $1. That’s a lot of beautiful bang for a buck! The outdoors has so much to offer—sometimes we just need to slow down and enjoy it!