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Incognito Project-Based Learning for a 21st-century Summer - Part One

Summer reading programs and suggested supplemental schoolwork, reading logs and journal ideas…these have become summer staples for the U.S. since we were all kids. Depending on your locale and the grade levels involved, these summer activities may be more stringent and structured than other districts, but the intent is the same - keep our kids learning throughout the summer.

But what if we could keep kids learning without them realizing that they’re learning? Better yet, let’s reinvent the old staples, using project-based learning in disguise to give these old faves new life and a new attitude!

You can keep the activities low-tech or make them high-tech, depending on skill level and availability of technology. Options for differentiation and supporting all learners equitably are included in these ideas as well.

Stay tuned to this 3-part series for new ways to boost summer learning!


(the activity formerly known as “What I Did on My Summer Vacation”)

On your vacation this summer or even throughout the months of vacation, have kids collect postcards as souvenirs and write on the back their favorite thing about that location and something they learned. The postcards will already come with a photo and information about the area, leaving the interesting info to the kiddos.

If travel isn’t on the docket for the summer, allow kids to buy postcards locally or even take their own photos with a smartphone or camera.

They can even track miles as you travel, adding them up along the way for younger learners, and for older learnings, teach them to calculate gas mileage, pointing out the difference between in-town and long-distance gas mileage.

Accommodation: Kiddos can choose their favorite postcard or photo from your phone. You can either record them talking about it or write it down yourself. Another idea is to record them narrating, and then teaching them to transcribe as a tool for school - this is great for kids whose minds work faster than their hands can write.

Extension: Allow kids to explore photo or video editing software - Canva is a great user-friendly option online. They can create their own video documentary along the way, then put the clips together at the end for a documentary-style vid your family will enjoy for years to come. For the mathematicians, put them in charge of a day of vacation (or the whole thing!), with a budget and desired activities, and see if they can make it work out with critical thinking - ‘What else will we have to pay for?’ It’s a great real-world activity for the summer.

Curiosity piqued? Move on to Part Two of the series!



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