Ideas and Activities to STEM the Summer Slide

A MiddleWeb Blog

stem_design_logoSummer is a great time for sun and fun, but this time is also referred to as the Summer Slide – a time when many of the learning gains that students make during the school year start slipping away.

Losing math and science skills is a common occurrence for students who lack exposure to these subjects during a long summer break.

So parents and teachers, this year plan some activities for your students to keep science, math, design, critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork on their front burners.

See this blog post for some guidelines for involving and supporting your kids in STEM learning. In addition, this post on How to Impart STEM Education to your Children is worth reading and rereading. And here are some more ideas and resources I’ve pulled together.

Strategies to STEM the slide

The following ideas include some specific strategies you can use through the summer.

  • JollyPix-01Involve your kids in hands-on, minds-on STEM activities. In other words, in addition to watching education videos, encourage them to actually plan, design, and construct items. Encourage them to have a purpose for creating the items – what will the items they create be able to do?
  • Build your children’s communication skills. Use activities that involve your children in communicating with you, other kids, and/or other adults. They might ask questions out of curiosity, or want to explain a device they constructed. They may want your input on an educational video that you are watching together. Be sure to ask good questions, show your interest, and encourage them to think more deeply. Your children can communicate in a variety of ways, including in person, via social media, and in writing.
  • Turn trips into STEM field trips. As you visit zoos, museums, theme parks, and other sites, point out real-world engineering applications. Call attention to how theme park rides operate. (How are they constructed? What science principles are they using?) Take your children on hikes and talk about everything from the environment to how the trails are constructed.
  • Encourage teamwork when children are learning together. Let the kids suggest some guidelines they will follow to help them work successfully together. As needed, point out that some things adults do to be successful in working together include listening carefully to what others say, being respectful to other team members, and allowing everyone to participate.
  • Provide opportunities for students to interact with engineers, scientists, and other professionals. Take your child to talk with an engineer about his or her work. If you are near a university, you may be able to introduce your child to professors and researchers and ask them to explain their work. Note: If you have a daughter, she will become more responsive to the idea of a STEM career herself if she meets women who are engineers and scientists.

Where to find learning resources

Take a few minutes to search the Internet for some STEM ideas you can use during the summer to keep your children interested and engaged in learning. I’ve listed six here that I think provide or suggest great learning activities.

  • JollyPix-02aDesign Squad Nation remains a favorite of mine for intriguing activities with materials you can afford and directions that are easy to follow. While not all activities are STEM activities, they all involve design – a component of STEM. This page will allow you to select a topic and locate many doable STEM activities sure to engage your children’s interest.
  • National Geographic offers a variety of activities and games. Again, not all are technically STEM, but they get kids involved in STEM skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving.
  • JollyPix-02PBS Parents provides engaging Resources for children in grades Pre-K to 12. Check out some of the ideas they suggest – everything from videos to activities and games. Great stuff! At this PBS page they focus on preteens and teens by spotlighting math, media, and technology.
  • Scholastic offers this Engineering a Bridge activity with simple materials and instructions. Bridge-building is a familiar activity to many students. This is a great opportunity for them to extend their knowledge of forces that act on bridges. This PBS site can give them information on bridge basics.
  • Scientific American brings science and STEM home with new science related activities weekly for kids ages 6 – 12. This site not only presents some practical and interesting activities, but information on the science behind them is included with each activity. Detailed procedures are easy to follow and the materials needed are simple.
  • For a unique STEM experience, your middle school and older children might be captivated by this unique platform, The Air Force Collaboratory. In fact, you might find yourself captivated by it! It leads participants through a real problem-solving adventure.

Are you really STEM-ing the summer slide?

How will you know if you’re actually helping to STEM the summer slide? A quick observation checklist can help you determine this. From time to time do this checkup on your children’s STEM activities.


Thank you for your interest and commitment to helping your children remain in “learning mode” for the summer! And if you’re a teacher sharing these ideas with parents or planning to participate in summer learning, thanks to you as well!

What plans do you already have, and what are you doing now? If you have any additional summer learning tips to share, please add them in the Comments section.

Have a Happy STEM Summer!

Images credit: NASA

Anne Jolly

Anne Jolly began her career as a lab scientist, caught the science teaching bug and was recognized as an Alabama Teacher of the Year during her long career as a middle grades science teacher. From 2007-2014 Anne was part of an NSF-funded team that developed middle grades STEM curriculum modules and teacher PD. In 2020-2021 Anne teamed with Flight Works Alabama to develop a workforce-friendly middle school curriculum and is now working on an elementary version. Her book STEM By Design: Strategies & Activities for Grades 4-8 is published by Routledge/EOE in partnership with MiddleWeb.

3 Responses

  1. Sheila Spieller says:

    Love your BLOG!!! We are starting a STEAM elementary school in our district- your info is really helpful!

  2. Anne Jolly says:

    Wow – thank you, Sheila! I’m really interested in the STEAM elementary school and the approach you’re using with the arts component. I’m co-teaching an online course on STEM/STEAM on the PLP Network in the fall, and I’d enjoy having some first hand info on what you’re thinking about doing in your district.

  3. Sandra says:

    I always have a box o fun handy for young children. Designing straw rockets, parachutes, cars, etc with household items, with design and testing and redesign built into the fun. Keep them learning!

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