Summer Science Ideas for Teens & Tweens

For many families across the country, these past few months have been a struggle. I know keeping kids engaged and learning is not always easy.

Now that summer is here, I find kids are burned out on online worksheets. Fortunately, summer science can be more than hands-on. Grab a dip net and lead the kids on a fully immersive science adventure!

Here are a dozen or more ideas you can use with your middle level science students stay active and engaged in enrichment activities all through summer.

Community Science Opportunities

Three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce. Some scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of animal pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths, birds and bats, and other insects.

Sadly, the number of pollinators is in decline. Other environmental factors are limiting the range of meadows and wildflower habitats, each of which have begun to show signs of succession.

Restoring native landscapes play a critical role in our ecosystem. Native plants provide shelter and food for pollinators, require less watering and maintenance, and add lasting color to any garden.

If you are concerned about saving bees, butterflies and other pollinators, #beecounted by helping the National Pollinator Garden Network reach one million bee-friendly gardens by National Pollinator Week.

The word citizen was originally included in the term citizen science to distinguish amateur data collectors from professional scientists. Today, it is important that we recognize that the term has become limiting in some contexts. As a part of my commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, I have transitioned from using the term “citizen science” to the more inclusive term “community science.” 

The ninth annual National Moth Week, July 18-26, invites novice and experienced “moth-ers,” alike, to observe these fascinating creatures in their own backyards and contribute to our scientific knowledge as part of one of the world’s largest community science projects.

Find more community science projects and opportunities here.

image of teen setting a crab trap at low tide

Hands-on Summer Science

Take a walk outside or along a nearby trail and observe the natural surroundings. Encourage your budding naturalists to start a nature journal.

Consider journaling activities in the classroom or allow them to develop their skills independently.

Have students build something out of recycled materials. Ideas could include a Rube Goldberg contraption, a skyscraper, or a bottle cap mural project.

Have students create a photo journal to document the trees, flowers, or common insects in your area.

Join Ms. Frizzle and her students on The Magic School Bus each month in exploring one of twelve different science topics through hands-on experiments with The Magic School Bus Science Club from The Young Scientists Club.

Practice your navigational skills using only a compass with orienteering! Set up a course in the neighborhood park and invite a few friends.

Virtual Field Trips & Movies

Summer is the perfect time for field trips. There are many benefits of local museums and science centers. Unfortunately, COVID19 restrictions have closed many popular museums and visitor centers.

Don’t worry! Many locations around the world offer ways to visit and explore their exhibits virtually. There are many movies to choose from to inspire further explorations of STEAM concepts. I will share my favorites soon.


What STEAM activities do you and your children enjoy in the summer months? Leave a comment below and share your ideas. 🙂

Multilingual Resources for Kids

I am on the cusp of a new season in my life. This autumn, as my eldest prepares to transfer to the university and move away from home, I will be returning to a brick and mortar classroom full time. I will be working with English Language Learners as the K-12 specialist. As such, I am on a quest to build a multilingual classroom library.

 My students come from all over the world and are a diverse population of students. They speak a variety of native languages such as; Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese, Palauan, Urdu, and many more!

Today, I highlight a few of my recent multilingual resources that I have discovered. I am excited to share these with my students in a few months.

Multilingual Story Books

Dylan’s Birthday Present

Dylan’s Birthday Present by Victor Dias de Oliveira Santos is an adorable story about a young polygot who desires a pet chicken for his birthday. The illustrations are a delight and children will be drawn into the creative and out-of-the-box story.

Dylan and his best friend, Emma, live in the USA. Both children have parents who came to the United States from foreign countries. The parents speak to their children in different languages. Dylan’s parents speak Portuguese, Ukrainian, and English while Emma’s parents speak to her in Zulu and English. As a result, the two kids became polyglots, people who speak more than a single language.

Available on Amazon in print and Kindle.

As children enjoy the story, they will identify with the characters, realize that having friends is a good thing, and become inspired to study (realizing that skills acquired by study can be very beneficial), and perhaps learn a new language.

The Fabulous Lost & Found and the Little Chinese Mouse

The Fabulous Lost & Found … series by Mark Pallis and Peter Baynton is another delightful story and it is available in many different languages. I had the pleasure to review the The Fabulous Lost & Found and the Little Chinese Mouse.

The story features a little mouse who enters the Lost & Found. The little mouse speaks only Chinese though and thus the proprietors – Mr. & Mrs. Frog – endeavor to figure out what the mouse is has lost.

There is a special magic about learning words another language and using them: I truly think it warms the heart. ~ Mark Pallis

The target age is 2-7, but my teen daughter enjoyed the story and remarked, “I actually know all the characters!” The unique ‘story-centered’ language learning method combines humor and emotion to gently introduce kids to 50 simple and fun Chinese words and phrases. 

Available on Amazon in print and Kindle.

Multilingual Music

Una Idea Tengo Yo is the latest album by Latin Grammy winners Andrés and Christina – the music duo of 123 Andrés. The eleven songs feature upbeat Spanish language songs that seek to answer a child’s curious questions about science, technology, engineering, and math.

Available in CD or MP3

123 Andrés combine a broad sampling of rhythms and Latin American music genres with familiar tunes. The Farmer in the Dell, for example, becomes El Agua y el Viento with new lyrics to edu-tain children as they learn how water and wind affect the Earth’s topography.

Other STEM topics include the four seasons, outer space, matter, animal habitats, light & sound, and much more. Lyrics and translations are available online.

Frame from video for Diez Perritos

For more bilingual children’s music, check out my earlier post about  José-Luis Orozco.

You can also find their STEM videos on YouTube or visit their website 123 Andrés to see their other releases, including an adorable book Hello Friend, Hola Amigo!

What’s in My Naturalist Bag?

In my mind, nature journaling is the perfect hobby. It incorporates so many of my passions – a love for the outdoors, the challenge of a long walk in the wild, the joy of creating something beautiful, and an inclination to learn more about the world around me. As such, whenever I venture outdoors, my naturalist bag is never far from my side.

Image of a naturalist's bag with contents displayed around it.

I love to nature journal and have been teaching students of all ages how to begin nature journaling for many, many years. One of the questions my students always ask is, “What’s all in your naturalist bag?” “What all do you carry with you?”

My Naturalist’s Bag

Before we dive into the contents, a naturalist’s bag is simply a tote, backpack, or anything portable. Essentially it is a field kit with painting and drawing materials that you can take outside for a leisurely afternoon walk or a quiet morning on the beach.

Please don’t look at what I carry now and think that you must make yours the same!  Your naturalist’s bag is a personal reflection of your preferences. You have different needs, wants, skills, and intents than I do.  We are each on a different paths and our journals – and even our bags – reflect that journey. For example, I still erase quite a bit but my daughter does not. She prefers to see how her lines work together to tell a certain type of story. 

“Nature journaling can be a quick fifteen minute sketch or an hour of painting and color immersion.”  

Getting Started

Tools are wonderful things, but it’s not necessary to start with more than a few things: pencil, eraser, pencil sharpener, and paper. These may be any type of your choosing; the important thing is to start drawing! I find that an inexpensive .7 mm mechanical pencil is a great tool. They never need sharpening, they provide a fairly wide range of darks (depending on your paper), and they are easy to refill or replace.

In an earlier post, I share 5 tips for Getting Started Keeping a Nature Journal.

Whatever your materials, get acquainted with them. See what they can do, what types of lines they make — what darkest or lightest marks? If you’re brushing up on drawing skills and have an assortment of tools, use those that are most comfortable, at least to start. As you gain experience and get more comfortable, you can expand your kit.

Image of a naturalist's bag with contents displayed around it.

The Essentials I Carry:

Here’s an example of my naturalist’s kit. I tried to make it as portable as possible.

Travelogue Drawing Book – I love the small size of the square 5.5 x 5.5. The paper has a good tooth which makes it an excellent choice for drawing and sketching work. It works well with many mediums: pen and ink, pencil, charcoal, and markers. The paper also accepts light watercolor washes without buckling. In the inside back cover is a clear pocket envelope perfect for tucking away feathers, leaves or other flat specimens.

Prismacolor col-erase blue pencil – My new favorite item is the col-erase non-photo blue pencil. It is the perfect tool to sketch out the basic shapes and create a framework for the finished work. When the piece is finished, the blue fades into the background and is less noticeable than a standard pencil.

Black Micron Pigmas – The smaller sizes are my preferred pen for stippling and fine detail. I use the larger nibs to journaling narrative.

Prima Marketing Watercolor Pan Set – I currently have the Vintage Pastel set. I love the colors, especially the sage and dark rose. I am considering additional palettes but my daughter is encouraging me to make my own customized set.

Waterbrushes – I have recently begun to use brushes which have a hollow barrel in the handle that can be filled with water. These are great tools for field sketching and more compact.

If you are interested in the online courses I teach, follow these links for more information. I teach Junior Naturalists Classes for youth & Nature Journaling in the Classroom, a course for adult educators.

Other Favorites I Carry:

Easthill Large Capacity Pencil Case – I love the larger size of this pencil bag. It fits an assortment of mechanical pencils, artist drawing pencils, a selection of colored pencils, an eraser, and pencil sharpener. I like the white erasers as they don’t leave a colored residue behind.

Prismacolor Pencils – I love Prismacolor pencils! They lay down color and blend together so smoothly – it’s like coloring with butter. For many years this was my absolute favorite medium. It was thereby economical for me to purchase the large set. I don’t carry them all with me in my naturalist’s bag however. If you haven’t used them before, consider buying them individually at an art store or a small set of 12-24.

Extras: I also keep a small ruler, a white birthday candle for watercolor resist, a portion of a cotton sock which I have cut to serve as an arm cuff, a small magnifying glass, zip-lock bags or empty Rx containers for small samples. NOTE: the Rx containers are not totally leak-proof, so keep them empty in your kit. As a precaution I keep anything wet or damp in a zip-lock bag.

It’s worthy to note that I also carry a first aid kit, sunscreen, and drinking water.

Youth Activism: Don’t Silence Their Voices

At our weekly Scout meeting earlier this week we talked briefly about how we, as individuals can make a difference. If you do your duty, then you can make a difference and though you are just one person, together youth activism has the power to impact the world.

Youth activism is youth engagement in community organizing for social change. Youth participation in social change focuses more on issue-oriented activism than traditional partisan or electoral politics.

As hard as it seems, it’s possible to make a difference. All it takes is one idea and the right mix of determination and willpower to effect change at the local level. Start with one thing you’re passionate about and find small, local ways to organize and find solutions to the problem. 

Image of youth activist Greta Thunberg with her sign "Skolstrejk for Klimatet"

GRETA THUNBERG

By now, everyone has heard of Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist focused on the risks posed by climate change. She began her school climate strike only a year ago. This past week, she inspired over 4 million people to take a stand for climate.

“Everyone is welcome. Everyone is needed.”⁣⁣ ~ Greta Thunberg⁣⁣

Greta is great. However, if we center our attention and lift up only the white youth leaders on an international scale, we risk recreating the exact same dynamics of instilling a culture of white supremacy that is present in modern, adult organizing spaces. We risk silencing the voices of black, indigenous, and people of color .

Indigenous youth and adults have been tirelessly leading the fight for climate justice for millennia and yet their voices have not received the same recognition. Let’s celebrate a few of these amazing young activists!

Image of youth activist Autumn Peltier

AUTUMN PELTIER

⁣Autumun Peltier, Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory in Canada, was appointed chief water commissioner for the Ashinabek Nation and was recently nominated for the 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize, awarded annually to a child who “fights courageously for children’s rights.” She was only 13-years-old when she addressed the UN General Assembly and told world leaders to “warrior up” to protect water.

Image of youth activist Isra Hirsi

ISRA HIRSI

Isra Hirsi, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, is the co-founder of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike. She helped launch the U.S. movement the same month her mother, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, took office. She says the climate crisis “is the fight of my generation, and it needs to be addressed urgently.”

Image of youth activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

XIUHTEZCATL MARTINEZ⁣⁣

Earth Guardians Youth Director Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is an indigenous climate activist, hip-hop artist, and powerful voice on the front lines of a global youth-led environmental movement.⁣⁣ He has fought for climate protections and spoken to large crowds about the effects of fossil fuels on the Indigenous and other marginalized communities since he was six years old. In 2015, Martinez and 21 other youths filed a lawsuit against the US Federal government, Juliana et al. v United States et al. They argue that the federal government is denying their constitutional right to life, liberty and property by ignoring climate change. 

ROOTS & SHOOTS

Are you a young person interested in making change, but don’t know where to start? Or are you an adult who is inspired by the recent wave of youth activism in the U.S. and want to help out? Consider Roots & Shoots; join an established group in your area or start a new group for your homeschool community or at your school.

Roots & Shoots, a program of the Jane Goodall Institute, is a global movement of youth who are empowered to use their voice and actions to make compassionate decisions, influencing and leading change in their communities.

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ~ Jane Goodall

Founded by Jane Goodall in 1991, the goal is to bring together youth from preschool to university age to work on environmental, conservation, and humanitarian issues. Roots & Shoots is a movement for youth just like Greta, Autumn, Isra, and Xiuhtezcatl …. just like you or your children.


Homeschool Science for College Bound Students

As a former elementary science specialist, science has always been a major part of our homeschool. During the grammar and logic stages, I taught each of the kids together following a three year cycle (life, earth, and physical sciences) emphasizing hands-on labs and outdoor experiences.

As the kids have matured and their interests have developed, I have begun to customize their coursework to align with college in mind and their individual career goals. As a result, the courses they have taken (or will have taken in the near future) are unique to each.

*Make sure to enter the giveaway at the end of this post for an online homeschool high school science course. Giveaway ends 8/30/19!

Disclaimer:  I was compensated for my time for this review. All opinions are honest and I was not required to post a positive review.

Options for Homeschool Science

Providing a quality science education through high school is a common concern amongst homeschool families. Considerations like budget, time, and even your own level of comfort are frequent topics of conversation at co-op or in online forums.

There are many different avenues available for teaching science in your homeschool. While traditional textbooks, lab kits, and literature based instruction remain popular, online courses and dual enrollment are gaining momentum.

Dual Enrollment

In our homeschool, we opted for the dual enrollment option. This was the best choice for us for a multitude of reasons but primarily cost. Keep in mind, it is important to take into consideration the aptitude and maturity of the student prior to making this choice. It isn’t for everyone.

Additionally, the grades the student earns in college courses will forever be on their transcript. It is also critical to research the local regulations and admission guidelines of the universities to which your child intends to apply. Not all schools accept dual enrollment credit.

Another related option is credit by examination. Students may earn college credit through examination by passing standardized exams in numerous subjects including biology, chemistry, and natural sciences. Taking an accredited AP course is NOT required. Students may study independently using textbooks, online courses, or even tutors of their choice.

Online Courses

There are a growing number of companies that provide diverse online educational opportunities for students around the world. From computer programming to local ecology, the choices are endless.

Online classes are not just for kids. There are a wealth of courses and materials available for adults providing both personal enrichment and professional development.

College Prep Science

One provider that stands out is College Prep Science. I am impressed by the acumen of the author. He has worked as a college professor, has more than twenty years of experience teaching homeschooled students, and he’s a homeschool dad!

The course offerings are diverse, here are a few that will be offered September 2019:

  •  Biology – College Prep (9th-12th) – Two Semester Class
  • Chemistry – College Prep (10th-12th) – Two Semester Class
  • Physics – College Prep (10th-12th) – Two Semester Class
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology (9th-12th) – Two Semester Class
  • Exercise and Sports Physiology (8th-12th) – One Semester Class

Like most public and private schools, College Prep Science uses a virtual lab service with all classes that allows students to perform very realistic labs online. Students are able to virtually pour liquids and chemicals, light burners, move things in the lab, weigh things, measure temperatures, record results, etc.

The courses provided by College Prep Science are Christ-centered.

Students are instructed on how to produce quality lab reports and they turn-in formal lab reports which are graded. Emphasis is placed on students understanding scientific inquiry, the scientific method, and the resulting science lab reports.

“We focus on building critical thinking skills and developing a research and inquiry mindset with the resulting quality lab reports and thinking skills that affect every area of academics and life.”  ~ Greg Landry, College Prep Science

Summer Camps & Weekend Intensives

Often you can also find incredible summer opportunities at your state university. A year ago, my daughter took part in a week long intensive engineering camp where she was able to take part in authentic research, connect with professors in her prospective field, and make friends with other teens with the same goals.

College Prep Science

College Prep Science offers two day Biology and Chemistry Lab Intensives in 15 locations nationwide. Parents may issue school credit for these as they deem appropriate. According to their website, each two day intensive is the equivalent of a full school year of labs.

They also provide online bootcamps for ACT prep and CLEP Biology prep. For students planning to be science majors in college, doing well on the “science reasoning” section of the ACT is especially important. 

Online Science Class Giveaway

To enter this amazing giveaway of an online science class ($680 value) from College Prep Science, you’ll need to subscribe to their newsletter. One winner will be announced in their newsletter on August 30, 2019.

Teaching homeschool science with college in mind does not have to be overwhelming. I hope these options can help you successfully navigate high school science. Best wishes with the giveaway!

The Science of Beekeeping: A Visit with an Apiculturalist

I have been fascinated with honeybees since I was in college.  I owe that fascination to an amazing professor, Michael Burgett at Oregon State University, whom taught an introductory entomology course that I enrolled in my senior year.  Had I taken that course earlier in my college days, I likely would have minored in entomology.  Anyway …

Visit with an Apiculturalist

For a while now, I have wanted to introduce the kids to the science of bee-keeping.  I have even hinted to my husband that I would love a hive of our own; that bees would make me happier than diamonds.  A girl can dream, right?

We recently discovered that a family we know here in Northern California are apiculturists.  When I made this discovery, I was full of questions.  It was thereby no surprise when they invited us out to help them to extract the honey from their hives.

Here’s a peak at the honey bee nature journal entries we created upon our return home.

Beekeeping 101

The frames had been removed from the hives a few days prior and brought into the garage.  This helped to provide a peaceful atmosphere in which to extract the honey for the bees gradually returned to the hive when the threat had moved on.  The frame boxes were stored in the attic of the garage for it was very warm up there and the honey was thereby less viscous.

The frames were removed from the box, the wax caps (if any) were sliced off with a flat, knife-like tool which was heated with electricity, and the frames were set into a large kettle like device.  We all took turns spinning the frames around … the honey would literally fly out of the hexagonal cells onto the wall of the extractor (presently muscle-powered but plans to motorize it spoken of).  The honey then drips down the sides and through a hole in the bottom which then leads to a double filter to remove any wax or insect remnants that may be present.  The honey is then funneled into jars for consumption.

Building insect hotels or habitat for insects is a great summer project for students learning about pollinators. 

This year, the family has 13 hives but sadly, the dry weather through the summer and an area grasshopper infestation in July caused the nectar source to be rather dismal.  As a result, they pulled only 81 frames in 9 supers with honey which will yield about 230 pounds of honey.  The previous year, they family had a small fraction of the hives they do now and yet had a similar yield.

When we had spun out 18 frames, we took turns donning the bee-keeper attire and visiting the hives.  The female worker bees, the drones (males lacking stingers), and of course the queen were identified.  We also had the opportunity to hold a drone in our bare hands much as we would have held a small frog.  This was such a strange feeling!

The Nature Book Club

Welcome to the Nature Book Club Monthly Link Up. Devoted to connecting children to nature, the monthly link up will begin on the 20th day of each month. We welcome your nature book and activity related links. Read on for more details.

Today, I would like to share with you an amazing book that delights readers of all ages. Using the book jacket and enclosed paper sheets, this book becomes a house for mason bees, which are non-aggressive, non-stinging super-pollinators. Mason bees pollinate far more than honeybees and their nest will give kids a chance to observe the insects more closely.

Turn this Book into a Beehive is written by Lynn Brunelle, author of Pop Bottle Science. Rich text teaches kids about the world of bees and numerous exercises, activities, and illustrations engage one’s imagination. Best of all, with just a few simple steps readers can transform the book into an actual living home for backyard bees.

The Nature Book Club is brought to you by these nature loving bloggers which are your co-hosts. Are you following them? If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to follow each one. Here are the co-hosts, their choices of books, and activities for July 2019:

Party Rules

Choose an engaging nature book, do a craft or activity, and add your post to our monthly link up.

The link up party goes live at 9:00 a.m. EST on the 20th of each month and stays open until 11:59 p.m. EST on the last day of the month. Hurry to add your links!

You can link up to 3 posts. Please do not link up advertising posts, advertise other link up parties, your store, or non-related blog posts. They will be removed.

By linking up with us, you agree for us to share your images and give you credit of course if we feature your posts. That’s it.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter