Summertime presents a great opportunity to enhance your children’s education. A fun way to do that is through educational outings.
It’s one thing to read about something interesting in a book or watch a documentary; it’s something else entirely to experience the real thing in person.
As you’re making plans for activities to do as a family this summer, be sure to include outings that are educational (but shhh … don’t tell the kids.)
The Natural World
Whether a hike through an interesting habitat or a trip to the park, the zoo, or the aquarium, the wonders of nature are a delight for every child. The key to making an exploration of nature—or any outing for that matter—truly educational, is to dive into the subject with your children in advance.
Do some research before you head out into nature. Get books about animals or wildlife you hope to see. Give the kids a map of where you’re headed. Make family movie night a related documentary before you go. You might even give the kids a checklist to track while you’re on your adventure. When they finally see what they’ve learned about, they’ll be thrilled and the learning will stick.
Art museums, the symphony, the opera, or a theatrical production can all be fun and interesting to kids as young as five, with the right preparation. The key is to offer some familiarity with what they’re about to experience. Even adults become easily overwhelmed walking around, for example, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, if they don’t have an understanding of what they’re looking at. Focus on a specific artist or period and learn about it together. Before a performance, become familiar with the story, listen to the music, or learn about the composer or playwright. Rather than spoiling the experience, it will enhance it.
When told well, few stories can compare to those of the real-life past. Don’t head to a historic site or museum without teaching your kids about what they’ll see. The site’s website is often the best place to start. Look for teacher resources created for school field trips. Find books at your local library and documentaries to supplement the information given.
Today’s science museums often provide a plethora of hands-on activities and exhibits for kids, which is truly the best way to reinforce the principles of science. As always, check the museum’s website in advance. In the case of science, though, it can be valuable to let the kids explore and play their way through the museum and then reinforce their experience with lessons at home afterward.
When you think about it, you can make any outing educational—even a trip to the grocery store or a visit to far away relative—if you consider the journey itself. Allow your kids to track the trip on a paper map, calculate how long the trip will take, take note of mountain ranges, bodies of water, or landmarks along the way.
If you look closely, learning opportunities are everywhere. If your family is going on vacation this summer, don’t miss out on leveraging the inherent educational opportunities your adventure holds.
Even if you plan to spend each day relaxing on the beach, you’ve got the journey there, the history of the location, ocean life, weather and climate, and any local sites you see to bring learning to the experience.
Do some preparation in advance to make it as rich of an experience as possible for your children. You never know when such an experience will light a spark that lasts a lifetime.