By Marcie Colledge and Kelly McCollum, Co-Founders of Yellow Scope
After a year of isolation kids across the nation are getting ready for a summer vacation spent playing with friends, participating in sports, and going on family vacations. But the learning loss these kids experienced during the pandemic is still looming over their educational future, and parents are looking for ways to help their kids enjoy a summer vacation they deserve, while helping them catch up on subjects like science and math.
What many parents don’t realize is that taking their child on vacation opens up new learning opportunities. Camping trips, visiting the beach, an amusement parks, going on a road trip and more can teach kids a lot about the world of science around them.
These are a few tips from the “science moms,” Marcie Colledge, PhD and Kelly McCollum, MPH, Co-Founders of Yellow Scope, that can help make your family vacation educational.
Many campgrounds offer campfire programs with naturalists where they teach kids about native animals and plants to the area that can help them identify regional differences.
Parents can also take advantage of the night skies while camping. There is less light pollution the further you are from the city, and night skies are much clearer out in nature. Children can enjoy the night sky and learn about objects in the solar system by bringing a map of the constellations and seeing which ones they can find, looking at the moon, visible planets, meteor showers and more.
Have you ever wondered what causes high and low tides? The moon! The gravitational force from the moon pulls on the earth and its oceans, which causes the water to “bulge” on the side closest to the moon, creating a high tide. Many beaches offer copies of “tide tables” that are used for tidal predication and can show the daily times and levels of high and low tides.
Speaking of tides, parents can take advantage of low tides and have kids explore tide pools. These are pools of water that are trapped at low tide. Kids can find sea stars, urchins, anemones, seaweed, crabs and sometimes even small fish that can be a great way to teach them about different sea creatures.
While pesky, shorebirds can also be an amazing learning opportunity for kids! Not all of the birds at the shore are “gulls,” or what we know them as, “seagulls.” There are many different types of interesting shorebirds. Their beaks can identify what type of shorebird they are. Some have long and curved beaks that help then dig up food in the sand (such as small crustaceans and insects).
Road trips are perfect for teaching kids about different geological features and landscapes in different states across the U.S. The plants and animals in Arizona look a lot different from what you’d see in Pennsylvania. Printing out guidebooks can help kids identify what they’re seeing and learn interesting facts about the world around them.
Taking fun educational items like the Yellow Scope Acids, bases & pH kit can occupy kids for hours in the car. While passing by different streams of water, lakes or ponds, kids can use the kit to measure the different pH levels and compare in different states or areas to see which has more or less acidity and why that might be.
National Parks offer a lot of outdoor recreational activities and learning opportunities. Every year, students in 4th grade can get the “Every Kid Outdoors” pass and get free access to national parks across the country. This year, the pass was extended to 5th graders who missed out last year!
Kids can also become a Junior Park Ranger, which is a program for kids in national parks that allows them to complete a series of activities during a visit, share their answers with a park ranger and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and certificate.
Many parks also have events specifically for kids which can be found at:https://www.nps.gov/kids/kids-youth.htm
A family trip to Disneyland, Six Flags or any other popular Amusement Park can also be a learning opportunity! All around them, Newton’s laws of motion, centripetal force and potential and kinetic energy is in “motion.” Kids can explore the physics of roller coasters and other amusement park rides while they’re in line for the Superman, Gadget Go’s Coaster and more.