Summer is a time when many youth throw their books to the side, and stop all reading, math and science acitivites. The problem is, their academic skills often atrophe due to lack of use.

Following are three brief articles offering insights from WSU professors on how to creatively challenge and keep your students engaged during the summer in math, science and reading — so they’re ready to roll when classes start up in September.

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Glynis Hull

Science activities abound nearby

Children’s science skills can be kept sharp during the summer months with a bit of creativity and focus, according to Glynis Hull, director of the WSU Spokane CityLab, which sponsors science summer camps for youth. Here are a few of her suggestions:

Visit museums, especially natural history and exploratory-style museums. (Pacific Science

Center, Seattle Museum of Flight, as well as WSU’s Conner Museum, James Entomological Collection, etc.)

Take nature walks in your neighborhood or local parks.

* Go hiking. Identify plants, animals and trees in the forest.

* Collect things: rocks, bugs, plants, leaves, seeds, postcards of animals in places you visit, seashells, etc.

* Find science websites on the Internet, many of which have experiments, games and activities you can do at home.

* Do a science scavenger hunt, either virtually or for real.

* Visit the science section of the local library.

* Hold a neighborhood “science fair.”

* Lie on your backs and watch the clouds — discuss weather, cloud formations, wind, etc.

* Take vacations to national parks, many of which have the Junior Ranger program kids can participate in. Or research the park’s features and discuss them when you arrive in person.

* Register your child for science camps held in your community or on college campuses.

* Purchase an inexpensive microscope and collect some pond water to look at; draw pictures.

* Have your children build their own “spaceship.”

* Take up rocketry or radio_controlled airplanes.

* Have neighborhood kids build custom boats and have a neighborhood boat float or competition.

* Purchase a chemistry kit and let your child experiment.

* Get an Erector set. Teach some principles of physics.

* Go to an astronomy club “star party” or purchase your own telescope and sky maps.

* Go snorkeling and identify fish seen.

* Volunteer in an animal shelter: discus animal care, feeding, why breeds are different.

* Give your children a box of “junk” and let them create whatever they can imagine.

* Find an old computer and let your child take it apart, reassemble or upgrade it.

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David Slavit

Games for driving math home on a journey

By David Slavit, WSU Vancouver

“Daddy, I’m too hot. And Billy keeps poking me.”

“Be quiet or we’re going home right now — don’t make me come back there!”

During the nice weather months in the Northwest, many people hit the road in search of fun. But getting there might be anything but that. Here are some helpful ideas for those of you wanting to have fun while learning a bit of mathematics during the driving season.

Younger children could easily participate in a game in which a shape is identified (such as a triangle), and the person who spots the most, the biggest, the most common, or whatever criterion you wish is designated the winner. Counting the number of green trucks, out-of-state license plates, or gas station signs is a good way of developing basic counting skills.

For older children, observing sign posts and counting the seconds between each is a way of finding speed. This could begin with a simple counting activity, but could evolve into approximation of the speed of the car (e.g., counting to “53 Mississippi” would mean that we are likely driving about 65-70 MPH). Finding the factors of the numbers on a license plate is a very good way of teaching mental multiplication, but pencil and paper could also be used.

Here are two particular games that could be lots of fun. If you have pencil and paper, you can ask the children to find the names of cities, restaurants, hotels, cars, etc., that are worth one dollar. This is determined by assigning one cent to the letter A, two cents to the letter B, etc., and then adding up the value of all the letters in a particular word or phrase. For example, “Taurus” is a one-dollar word. The game could be modified to find the item that is worth the most.

Guess My Rule is also a good game to play with or without pencil and paper. One person thinks of an arithmetic rule, such as “multiply a number by 3 and then add 5.” The other person(s) must then guess the rule from self-generated clues. These involve stating a number and receiving the value back which the mystery rule produces. For example, if I give “3” as my first number for the above mystery rule, then the person would tell me “14.”

Strategies such as using zero can be discussed. The level of complexity can be altered by allowing for rules with a greater number of operations (the above uses only two — multiply and add) or more complex operations, such as exponentiation. This game is great for teaching about the algebraic idea of a function, and can be made appropriate for very young children (e.g., a first grader could probably find the rule of “add three to a given number” after just a few test numbers).

There are many common or commercial games that have car-ready versions for various ages — such as tic-tac-toe, checkers, Chinese Checkers, and chess — which promote logical thought. The Rubik’s cube or other similar puzzles are good for spatial skills. Having more than one of the same kind of puzzle allows for contests, which is always a good way of keeping things motivating and interesting, or a way of encouraging teamwork.

A visit to the local book store can supply a family with a wealth of such games.

Adults and children can encourage each other to make up a good game. The key is to realize that math is all around, observe, and have fun.

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Encourage summer reading via example, discussion, audio tapes

By Terrell Young, Teaching and Learning, WSU TriCities

Researchers have found that most children experience a loss of reading skills during the summer months. But, children who continue to read actually gain skills.

Here are some way to encourage kids to read:

1) Read aloud to them.

2) Listen to and talk about audio books when traveling.

3) Arrange for your child to read to younger siblings or neighbors.

4) Have reading materials available. Do not limit them to books.

5) Ask librarians about what is popular with kids the same age as your children.

6) Keep in mind that nonfiction is often popular with kids. Approximately 55 percent of boys and 45 percent of girls prefer nonfiction to fiction. Look into the Orbis Pictus and the Robert Sibert Award winning books. (The books are easily found on the Internet.)

7) Invite your kids to research areas you may be visiting during the summer.

8) Look for books that kids can “dip in and out of.” For instance, kids can read and enjoy portions of “The Guinness Book of World Records” in just a few minutes.

9) Find books that are similar to books they have enjoyed.

10) Remember that most everyone enjoys humor. Check out Jon Scieszka’s “The Stinky Cheeseman and other

Fairly Stupid Tales,” and his Time Warp Trio series; Roald Dahl’s “The Twits;” and Dav Pilke’s Captain Underpants series.

11) Regularly visit the library.

12) Take advantage of the book/movie connections (such as “Ella Enchanted,” “Holes,” or “The Indian in the Cupboard”).

13) Read. A parent’s reading example speaks volumes and is far more effective than nagging.