What's the best cure for the summertime blues? How about outdoor education? The backyard or local park are great places to soak up the sun and dive into a citizen science project or a quick environmental ed lesson. So if you know someone suffering from summer boredom, here are some hands-on, DIY outdoor education ideas that are great for kids.
- 10 Awesome Outdoor Summer Learning Ideas: Part of MindShift’s summer learning series, this blog by Jennie Rose is chock full of fun! Rose covers citizen science projects -- like habitat learning tool YardMap -- DIY gardening and recycling projects, and plenty of other super fun activities.
- Find a Citizen Science Project Near You: SciStarter connects researchers and citizen scientists, and the site features a vast database of ongoing projects. The website’s Project Finder tool makes it easy to search for intriguing field work opportunities for kids; they can spend a few afternoon hours conducting research in just about every science field -- from monitoring pollution to collecting photos of insects.
- Nature Activities for Families: Project Learning Tree chalked up these exciting outdoor activities that are perfect for summer. Most of the activities take place in wooded areas, so they're perfect to try on an afternoon hike or walk in the woods. One that looks like a ton of fun: “The Fallen Log” assignment asks students to observe a fallen tree and collect photos or sketches of what they see, then research what they found.
- Get Outdoors -- It’s Fun for the Family: These National Wildlife Federation resources makes it easy for families to get outdoors. Start with the NWF’s Activity Finder tool to search for entertaining outdoor activities. (The camera scavenger hunt looks like tons of fun.) Also, check the parents' guide for tips to sneak a few minutes of outdoor time into a busy schedule.
- Hunt for the Elusive Lost Ladybug: This citizen science program began in 2000 in New York State, and since then, it’s grown into a nationwide ladybug species tracking project. For the aspiring entomologist, there are plenty of helpful resources, including an in-depth field guide, and the site makes it easy for kids to share photos of their finds.
- Outdoor Classroom Resources: San Francisco-based nonprofit Education Outside produced these engaging environmental activities for K-5 students. Although they're designed to be used during the school year, many of them can be easily adapted for a summer afternoon in the backyard.