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Captivating Summer Themes for Elementary Students: Six Ideas

written by: Melissa Matters • edited by: Amanda Grove • updated: 10/10/2013

Keep students engaged during summer learning programs by choosing appropriate and interesting themes. Here are six teaching ideas.

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    Themes should be carried across the curriculum. Six themes to consider are solar energy, sandcastles, water, camp, ice cream and Fourth of July. Each theme has several lesson suggestions.

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    Soak up the Sun with Solar Energy

    Six Fun Summer Theme Ideas for Elementary Students Ask students what energy means to them. Essentially, energy is the ability to do work. Introduce the term renewable energy: Energy that can be recreated and not used up. The sun is a source of energy. Solar energy is energy from the sun that is often used to make heat or electricity. Solar panels are often used to attract light and heat things like pools and buildings.

    Some books to read about solar energy include The Kids' Solar Energy Book by Tilly Spetgang and Done in the Sun: Solar Projects for Children by Anne Hillerman. After reading these, kids can write a summary about why solar energy is beneficial.

    Buy solar beads from a local educational or science store. Solar beads are white but change color when exposed to UV light. Let kids make a hypothesis on what will prevent the beads from turning colors. Some ideas are bathing them in sunscreen, going in the shade or covering them up with various materials. Give kids strings and let them make solar bead bracelets or key chains. Then, go out and test out their hypotheses.

    If it is hot enough outside, bring some tinfoil and an egg out. Crack the egg on the tinfoil and let it cook. This is solar energy at work.

    For language, students can write haikus about the sun. A haiku is a poem that uses a 5-7-5 syllable pattern. Often times, the poems focus on nature. Here is an example:

    Hot, burning fire ball

    The biggest star of them all

    Lighting up the sky

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    Sandcastles as Art

    Sandcastles are fun to build but for some, they are works of art. Read The Sandcastle by M.P. Robertson to students.

    Students can design their perfect sandcastle on paper.

    For an outdoor activity, students can build sandcastles.

    Students can write a "How To" paper on sandcastles. They will need to include materials and step by step directions.

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    Water, Water Everywhere

    Students can compare and contrast different types of bodies of water. Students will pick two types of bodies of water. Then, they will make a Venn diagram and write down the similarities and differences. Next, they will write a compare and contrast essay.

    For science, go through the three states of water: gas, liquid and solid. The state of the water depends on how fast the molecules are moving. Go over examples of each state. Steam is a form of gas. Liquid is a puddle and an ice cube is a solid. Heat has the ability to change the water into different states. To show the effect of heat on a solid, bring in two ice cubes. Put one ice cube into cold water and one into hot water. Let students see how fast each one melts.

    Have students measure water and how putting objects like marbles into a water filled cylinder raises the water level. Why is this?

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    Summer Camp Fun

    Have students solve camp word problems. Here are some examples:

    1. Matthew brought 38 hot dogs to roast. There are 18 campers. If each camper has 2 hotdogs, will Matthew have enough to feed everyone? Will he have any left over? (Yes, use division to find out that 38 divided by 18 is 2 R2. There will be two hot dogs left over).
    2. Every hour the fire needs to be fueled with three pieces of wood. If the fire needs to be burning for 12 hours, how many pieces of wood will be needed? (12 x 3 = 36 pieces of wood).

    Students will then write their own camp word problems.

    Have students write a scary ghost story for camp.

    For the culminating day of camp, bring in things like sleeping bags and tents. Have everyone bring in their favorite book and read around a "campfire."

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    We all Scream for Ice Cream

    Everyone loves ice cream. For a math activity, try doing fraction ice cream. Using construction paper, students will cut out a cone shape and then three scoops of ice cream. On each scoop of ice cream, students will write one third and then the flavor. On a separate piece of paper, they will write out the equation that matches their ice cream creation. For instance, 1/3 vanilla + 2/3 mint chocolate chip = one ice cream cone. Repeat the process with fourths and whatever denominator students are working on.

    Teach students about personification. Personification is a giving non human things, human qualities. Have students write personification sentences about ice cream. For example: As I placed it in the freezer, the ice cream shivered.

    For a writing activity, have students do a draw and write. They will draw a picture of their favorite ice cream sundae. Underneath, they will write a descriptive paragraph. Encourage students to use personification or other type of figurative language.

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    Celebrate the Fourth of July

    The Fourth of July is an important holiday that students often don't know much about. For this reason, have students research the history of the Fourth and why it is called Independence Day. Students can then do short oral reports on the holiday.

    Read part of the Declaration of Independence to students: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Have a discussion about what this means to them.

    For a vocabulary lesson, give students words associated with the Fourth of July: bravery, independence, equality, rights, tyranny, ruler. Have students use dictionaries to find one synonym and one antonym. Students should write sentences for each.

    For art, have students paint the American Flag or bring in felt and have them make a felt flag.

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    Using summer themes for school aged children will help any summer program fly by. Decorating the classroom will excite children before the lesson even begins.

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    Sources:

    Energy, eia.doe.gov

    Declaration of Independence, ushistory.org

    Spetgang, Tilly. The Kids' Solar Energy Book. Imagine! Publishing: New Jersey, 2009.

    Hillerman, Anne. Done in the Sun: Solar Projects for Children. Sunstone Press: New Mexico, 1983.

    Robertson, M.P. The Sandcastle. Frances Lincoln Children Books: London, 2002.