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15 Ideas for Keeping the Learning Fun in the Summertime

Imagine your child’s teacher sitting you down during conferences and telling you that your kiddo is about to lose 2 months in his reading ability, and 2.6 months of math skills—as scheduled.

That’d be a jagged little pill to swallow.

Let me then, as your new BFF blogger break the news to you: The average kiddo who scampers off to summer break loses 2 months in reading ability and 2.6 months in math skills. Annually. It is scientifically known as Summer Brain Drain.

Research shows it is rampant in our schools. It’s a plague

Sizzling Summer Science Activities to Keep Your Kids Learning

I saw a report that said the average child sits in front of a monitor for over seven hours a day. No one wants to spend the summer with the kids in front of the television. Get out, enjoy the sunshine and do a little science. Here are some science activities to do outdoors this summer.

Water Conservation in the Garden
Backyard and container gardens are popular activities for families who want to save a little money and grow their own food. Garden centers now sell polymers called Water Jelly Crystals. The crystals start out as a small pebble and when soaked in water, absorb the water and grow. Place a handful of Water Jelly Crystals in the dirt under the roots of your plant in gardens or containers. To make a raised garden, we placed cinder blocks over turned up dirt in the garden. Mix a handful of Water Jelly Crystals into the dirt and place the roots halfway down. Then fill to the top with dirt. As the Water Jelly Crystals dehydrate, they will keep the soil moist. The roots won’t dry out and excess water will run off. The best part is you won’t have to water the plants as often.

Growing Plants in Test Tubes
Have you taken the time to show your kids

Summer Science Fun with Sun Print Fabric – WIN Your Own Packet

**CONTEST CLOSED. CONGRATS TO WINNER MARIANNE TOURON!**

Summer is the perfect time to get outside and do a little science.  There are so many experiments and projects to do with sun, dirt, bugs, rocks and more. Catching butterflies, watching worms, picking up polies, scouring for shells, studying rocks are all some of the simple pleasures of summer.

I especially love experimenting with the power of the sun. From cooking a cake (trying) in my first solar oven in 3rd grade Girl Scouts, I have loved trying to find new ways to harness the sunlight. There are so many fun experiments to do with the sun, but I’ve recently discovered one of my all-time favorite activities for summer – Sun Sensitive Fabric.

We all made nature designs on Sun Print or Sun Sensitive Paper in our youth. It’s still a very popular product for summer camps and summer fun.

Sun Sensitive Fabric takes it one step further – it puts those fabulous nature designs on, yep, you guessed it, fabric.

The fabric is obviously more expensive than the paper ($26.99 for 20 sheets), but it also lasts a lot longer and comes with a variety of craft projects after the prints are created. This isn’t going to end up in the paper recycle bin after a few days.

Each square is 8″ x 8″ giving you plenty of room to create your own, unique work of art.

I took the fabric into my daughter’s third grade class as a special end of the year project in May. It was so much fun to watch each student design their own masterpiece.

The fabric is treated with a special light sensitive solution and sealed in a light-proof bag. Just like the paper, when exposed to the sunlight, the fabric changes color. To start your creations, find leaves, letters, plastic animals, beads – get creative. The students ran around trying to find objects to use and outdo each other’s creativity.

The best objects to use are flat. The more 3-D an object is, the less of an impact it will have. We used paper letters, geometric shapes, leaves (leaves with different shapes and edges work best), necklaces, plastic animals (lay down, don’t stand up), jacks, flowers, ribbons, buttons, beads and anything else the students could find.

Next, take out the fabric you want. The fabric comes in packets of all blue or multi-colored. Keep in mind with the multi-color that the color you choose will not be your final color.

Lay out your design on the fabric inside and out of the sun. We pinned the fabric on pieces of cardboard for stability. Carry it outside to sit in the sun about 5-10 minutes.

Bring it inside and rinse until the water runs clear. Hang it to dry for about 30 minutes.

The best part about this activity is the fabric has so many uses. You can make your science project/work of art into a pillow, bandana, tiny blanket or large blanket if you use several squares, framed art and more.

And while you are out in the sun, don’t forget to bring along my second favorite science/art project – UV Beads – beads that change color when exposed to sunlight. Make bracelets, necklaces and test out the strength of your sunscreen.

Mile High Mamas and Steve Spangler Science are giving away a Packet of 20 Sheets of Sun Print Fabric to try with your kids this summer. Please go here to enter. Contest deadline is July 3, 2011. You may enter as many as five times.

Susan Wells is a native Colorado mom to two girls, ages 6 and 9. She loves to find the learning in everything. In past lives, Susan has been a symphony bassist, sound engineer, news web producer and web developer. She currently works for Steve Spangler Science in web marketing, social media and blogging and blogs at TwoHandsTwoFeet.com.