STEMming the Summer Learning Loss

STEMing Summer

School’s out and summer is finally here!

But did you know that students lose an average of one to two months of academic knowledge—primarily of science and math—over the summer holiday?

Although the books and calculators have been put away until the fall, summer opens the door to one of the best classrooms for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)—the great outdoors. It also affords parents the opportunity to be a part of their child’s learning experience while enjoying quality family time. Here are a few fun (and budget friendly!) ways to incorporate STEM in common summer activities:

Playground Coding

Teaching the basics of computer coding can actually be a fun outdoor group activity.  The game, similar to “Simon Says,” requires one child act as “programmer” and the other children act as “computers.”  The programmer then inputs commands using “If-then” statements.  (Ex: If I blink, then you jump).  When one of the computers fails, he/she must “break” by sitting down.  The last one standing wins the game. See additional variations to the game here. 

Science in the Sky

Later summer bedtimes mean it’s the perfect time to explore the stars. Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax county offers “Boardwalk Astronomy,” a program that investigates “constellations, comets and other current events” in the nighttime sky.  For ages 11 and above, it’s one of the best deals in town at $7 for residents and $9 for those who reside outside Fairfax county.  Too little (or too rainy) for “Boardwalk Astronomy”?  Try these DIY constellation cards - all the materials are easily found at home!

Beachfront “Properties”

The beach provides a veritable treasure trove of STEM fun! From learning how the moon’s gravitational pull affects the tides, to understanding what makes the sea salty—the beach offers an excellent learning opportunity.  Even sandcastles provide a lesson in physics as water creates the surface tension that binds the grains of sand together.

Rainy Day STEM fun

In addition to dozens of free Smithsonian museums and programs, D.C. offers some hidden STEM gems to take the boredom out of a rainy day:

  • The Children’s Science Center in Fairfax features several interactive exhibits and workshops that are perfect for the younger set (we think it’s best suited for kindergartners and preschoolers).

  • Looking for something new to read? Check out “Rosie Reads”, a summer reading list from Arlington-based nonprofit Rosie Riveters. Many of the books feature STEM, and all highlight the organization’s mission to help instill girls ages 4-14 with the “confidence to try.”

Remember, Rosie Riveters’ four-week STEM program will return in the fall!  Sign up for our newsletter here and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for program updates and additional projects to try at home.