Build a Better Summer Camp — Just Add Science

from NYSCI President and CEO, Margaret Honey:

Last week, Peter Orszag wrote an article linking summer learning loss with skyrocketing childhood obesity rates.. For decades, educational researchers have studied summer learning loss — sometimes called the “summer brain drain.” In short, summer vacation negates some of the learning achieved during the academic year. This is particularly so for children on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

We don’t expect kids to do algebra at the beach, but there’s any number of ways to incorporate science and math into their summer schedules. And summer learning is, you know, fun and active.

For instance, if your son is sliding down a playground slide, ask him “if you lean forward, do you think you’ll go faster or slower than if you lean back?” Whether or not he realizes it, your son just conducted an experiment in acceleration of gravity.

And if your daughter tells you she’s bored, just take some vinegar and baking soda from the kitchen tell your daughter to raid the recycle bin for a discarded soda bottle, and you’re just a few steps from blasting-off a do-it-yourself rocket. (You might want to try that experiment outdoors, unless, like us, you have a room with an 80-foot ceiling.)

Then, once your kids are hooked on being junior scientists, don’t forget to drop by your local science center to find out how rockets fly, why leaves are green and just why we have seasons in the first place.

We can find creative ways to keep science front-and-center all summer. At NYSCI, we’ve found that kids take to science like they do to water.  We have hands-on learning for all ages. Campers throng to our Science Playground to try their own experiments with slides, seesaws, sand pits, and fog machines designed to explain motion, balance, sound, sight, and simple machines. For example, the Playground’s Giant Seesaw illustrates how weight placed in various spots causes the beam to dip, rise or balance just so. With the Giant Lever, a child can easily lift a 700 lb. barrel.  And at our Big Ears exhibit, visitors learn how sounds change in pitch and volume depending on where they place their giant “ears.”

Just because school’s out, it doesn’t mean we should take a vacation from learning. 


—Dr. Margaret Honey is the President and CEO of the New York Hall of Science