Educational Summertime Activities Kalamazoo MI
East Lansing, MI
Traverse City, MI
Educational Summertime Activities
Some Fun and Educational Activities For SummertimeAuthor: Jessie Mathisen
As a tutor, I have seen time and again that the students who have the strongest skills are the students who do lots of learning outside of school, as well as inside it. That doesn't mean that these kids are doing drills all summer and on the weekends- far from it. They are getting out and exploring the world with their families and friends (or sometimes they're curled up at home with a good book or an interesting hobby). Here are a few ideas for fun, educational activities to try out this summer.
Reading books is often touted as the best way to learn new vocabulary- and it probably is. But it certainly isn't the only way! Any activity that exposes a person to a rich selection of words in context is sure to be beneficial. In New York City, we're fortunate to have an exceptionally wide range of theater available to us, but it can get very expensive, especially if you're taking a family. That's why the outdoor, free theater we get in the summer time is so exciting. Shakespeare in the Park is the biggest player, but there are many other opportunities, too. Shakespeare in the Park(ing Lot), Shakespeare in Riverside Park, and puppet shows specifically for children at the Swedish Cottage in Central Park (there is a suggested donation for this) are just a few of the many good options.
A large proportion of free summer theater consists of Shakespearian productions, which can be intimidating. In general, seeking out comedies and tragedies (as opposed to histories) and reading a plot synopsis before you go are ways to make the performances more accessible.
Walking tours aren't just for tourists. If you look, you can find a tour catering to almost any interest, schedule, and age group. The beauty of walking tours is that you can learn about history, culture, art, and architecture while standing in the places where astonishing events happened. A good tour is a strangely visceral way to learn about history.
In New York City, tour guides must be licensed, but the test isn't very hard and some guides are far more knowledgeable than others. To improve your chances of getting a guide who tells stories that are true as well as entertaining, look for companies or individuals who tout their educational qualifications.
Art museums aren't necessarily seasonal, but they do make great outings on blisteringly hot summer days. Going to a museum and just looking at art is great, but it's also good to remember that many museums provide tours (often, these are included in the price of admission). Also, some museums go out of their way to be accessible to people who aren't already art connoisseurs. The Brooklyn Museum is perhaps my favorite because of their exceptionally good signage and curation. The Morgan Library also goes above and beyond to provide background information on its exhibits.
Sadly, the value of art is not always appreciated. If you're wondering how educational a trip to an art museum could actually be, keep in mind that art gives an excellent window into the times and places where it was made. Possessing background information about a wide variety of topics is one of the better predictors of reading level that I am aware of.
Museums can become quite expensive if you take a family and pay full price, however almost all museums in New York have either free or pay-what-you-wish times that you can take advantage of. Another drawback of going to museums is the crowds- the big Manhattan museums can become astonishingly crowded, especially during the summer tourist season. You may want to check out smaller, less central museums such as P.S.1, The Bronx Museum of Art, The Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art, or The Museum of Art and Design.
New York City can be a surprisingly rewarding place to watch birds. For one thing, in many parks, birds become somewhat acclimated to a human presence and it is possible to observe them more closely than would be normal in a less crowded area. For another thing, there are a great many enthusiastic, knowledgeable birders who are eager to share.
You can borrow bird watching supplies in a "Discovery Kit" backpack free of charge from the Central Park Conservancy at the Henry Luce Nature Observatory at Belvedere Castle (mid-Park at 79th Street) on an ongoing, year-round basis. Ages 6 and up; an adult must accompany children under 12 years of age. The kit includes binoculars and a bird ID book. I've done this, and the best part of carrying the kit was that it identified me as an interested, but novice, birdwatcher. Quite a few birders went out of their way to show me sights such as a sleeping owl and heron chicks that I never would have found on my own.
Build a Crystal Radio
One of my very vivid memories from childhood is building a crystal radio from a kit with my father. To say it was intriguing to get actual radio signals from something that had no apparent power source and which looked so simple is an understatement- this is the kind of activity that could really spark a kid's curiosity and blossom into a desire to study physics and engineering.
There are many kits available to help you build a crystal radio- getting one from a mail order catalog is probably the easiest route, but it is sometimes possible to find them in hobby shops, toy stores, or science museum gift shops. There are also on-line directions available for making radios more or less from scratch (I haven't tried this and don't know how difficult it is).
New York Academics offers homeschooling in New York City for students with a wide variety of needs. We also offer Physical Science Tutoring in your home, office, or in a public place. Please inquire about the availability of tutors for specific times, locations, and subjects.
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