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Hot Days, Healthy Brains: Summer Activities That Keep Kids Learning

With spring break just ending, summer is just a few short months away. It’s never too early to start planning your summer activities! With so many amazing programs offered in our communities, it’s hard to keep track of them all – that’s why we did the work for you. Research shows students risk regression during summer months, so what better way to keep that brain healthy than by finding fun ways to keep learning? We hand-picked some great activities in each of our regions that will stretch your student’s thinking this summer.


Soak up a Story: It can be exhausting to play in the sun all day. Why not seek solace from the Tennessee sun while listening to your favorite story? Nashville Public Libraries hosts story times at their various locations multiple times weekly. While you’re there, sign up for the summer reading challenge (details coming soon!) to encourage your scholar to explore the many great things about literacy.

Seek the Stars: Is your student curious about space and the solar system? Take her to Vanderbilt University Dyer Observatory’s Open House Day, held on the first Tuesday of each month. She can take a peek in the telescope and can even ask questions to the on-site astronomers — all for free.

Cultivate their Curiosity: Does your budding scientist ask about the why behind every occurrence in nature? Take him to the Adventure Science Center! Not only can he learn what a bee colony looks like from the inside, but he can also experience free chemistry classes. The center also offers a great summer camp.

Learn All Summer Long: Speaking of camp, there are many awesome opportunities all across Music City, from Art Camp at the Frist Center (also offers need-based scholarships) to Mr Bond and the Science Guys science camp, For more ideas, don’t miss this comprehensive list assembled by Vanderbilt University’s Child and Family Center.


Rewarding Reading: If your student begs to be taken out to the ballgame this summer, why not encourage her to sign up for the DC Library Summer Reading Challenge? Is your scholar more of a scientist? Join the STEAM Team on Sunday afternoons. Does she love to craft? Every Tuesday there’s an event for that too. Don’t miss out on the fun this summer – check out DC Public Libraries.

Sharpen Your History Chops: Was your student crazy over the velociraptors in Jurassic World? Stoke their curiosity by visiting the Smithsonian Institution Natural History Museum. If the free admission, air conditioning and dinosaur exhibit aren’t enough to get you in, don’t forget the museum also boasts an insect zoo with live tarantula feedings daily.

Soar to New Heights: Did you know the National Air and Space Museum hosts the largest collection of air and spacecrafts in the world? Spend a day here and you’ll get to experience everything from observing craters on the moon through a telescope to climbing aboard a spacecraft simulator. Check out the Families page for tips on planning your visit.

Capital Camps: In addition to the many free offerings on tap at the Smithsonian, there are also many rich experiences to be had all summer long at its summer camps as well as safari camp at the National Zoo, Nearby Arena Stage also has a variety of arts camps.

Bay Area

Play Hard:  Budding thespians, paleontologists and botanists will all find something intriguing at the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose! Whether students uncover fossils in the mammoth exhibit or create massive bubbles in the gallery, this is a guaranteed fun time for all. Chances are some of your students may have visited the museum already during a field trip – why not have them help plan the visit?

Step up to the Challenge: This summer, the SJ Public Library and Redwood City Public Library are both hosting summer reading challenges. More information will be coming soon, but get ahead of the game by signing up for a library card today!

Calling all Engineers: Living in the heart of the Silicon Valley offers lots of access to innovative ideas. Learn about the history of technological innovation at the Computer History Museum! Your future programmer will have an opportunity to engage in exhibits and discussions about both the history and future of computers and technology. This museum is recommended for students in grades three and higher.

Cali-Style Camps: The Bay Area is where Camp Galileo got its start, with a focus on innovation and a different theme every week to immerse students in design, art, science, and problem-solving. There are  two camp locations for elementary school students in San Jose and one in Palo Alto. (Compared to other offerings, this program is fairly pricey, but some need-based scholarships are on offer.) Want to focus just on robotics? Be sure to check out Wizbots. Fancy a stage instead? You’ll want to check out the theater camp hosted by the renowned Children’s Musical Theater.


Take a Trip: A visit to the Milwaukee Public Museum can mean many things: a trek through Africa, a show at the Dome Theater or a trip through time to see how Native Americans lived.

Be a Super Reader: Head over to any branch of the Milwaukee Public Library to sign up for the summer reading challenge. Just by reading this summer, you could win prizes – last year, some kids won a chance to be on the field at the Brewers’ stadium. Not sure what to read? MPL has you covered with their reading recommendations.

Dance on Down: Is your student one of the most enthusiastic dancers at Launch? A visit to Discovery World might be for you! The new Music Factory exhibit lets kids of all ages engage in the principles of music automation. If your scholar is more of a science fan, consider visiting Discovery World’s many science activities. They’ll learn about everything from the sky, to the lakes, to the sometimes impolite world of the human body.

Even More To Discover: If Discovery World sounds enticing, you’ll want to make sure to check out their summer camp offerings. Other, more outdoorsy options include the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center camp and the camp at the Urban Ecology Center camp (scholarships available).

What’s your favorite thing to do during the summer? Share with us and other Rocketeers  @RocketshipEd

Logan came to Rocketship in 2013 after spending three years in a neighboring district in east San Jose. She learned about Rocketship’s inspired full inclusion model and knew within her first days as a Rocketeer that she was in the right place to influence change for all students. Logan is most inspired by her students who seem to inherently understand that learning can be messy and difficult, but who are willing to jump in headfirst anyway. Logan lives with her husband and her dog in sunny Santa Cruz and spends her extra time playing on the beaches or hiking underneath the redwood trees in her backyard. Follow Logan on Twitter: @loganjuve


Published on April 4, 2016

Read more stories about: Parent Experience.