Teacher Talk: Summer Social Studies Activities
Parents: Believe it or not, children actually like to do some schoolwork during their summer vacation. This year, our focus is on social studies. Choose the activities that are both age-appropriate and enjoyable for your children.
Surf the Web
Start at www.kids.gov – the official portal of the U.S. government. This site has games and activities for different age levels, as well as links to other sites. Another good site is the National Parks Web site at www.nps.gov/learn. It offers many games and activities through its Junior Rangers and WebRangers programs. And, use a search engine to find more “social studies fun for kids.”
Fish for Presidential Facts
Barack Obama took the oath of office holding President Abraham Lincoln’s Bible. Many have written about the similarities and differences between these two presidents from Illinois. Have your children compare the two men. Make this task easier and more enjoyable by having your children read, or read to them, stories of the lives of these two presidents. Then, based on their ages, here are some suggestions of comparisons your children can make:
Place of birth
Who raised them
Members of their immediate families
Ages when they became president
Length of service in state legislature
Height and weight
Service time and positions in U.S. Congress
Mode of transportation to inauguration
Criticism of inexperience during presidential campaigns
Books they wrote
Titles of cabinet members
Wars fought during their presidencies
Places visited abroad
Travel the Roadways
Learning how to read maps can’t begin too early. Maps are fun for children of all ages, and even for parents. Keep track of your family travels this summer. Pin up a city, state or U.S. map. Then, every time you take a trip, place a small sticker on that spot, even if it is to the local grocery store.
Preschool and Kindergarten – Help your children draw a map of your home or the neighborhood.
Elementary School and Older – Use a large U.S. map with an outline of the states, as well as a smaller map with the names of states and capitals. Children should take turns throwing a bean bag on the large map and writing the names of the states they land on. When all the states are named, they can repeat the process by writing in the capitals.
Have Fun With Games
Bingo: Create boards with well-known historic events/dates. Or, use states/capitals. Just creating the game can be a learning experience.
Charades: Have your children draw from such topics as famous sayings, presidents, world leaders, explorers, military heroes and states. Each group of players can choose items for the other team to present to their group.
Puppets: Let children make puppets and use them to act out such events as the moon landing, the discovery of America, writing the Declaration of Independence and the making of famous Supreme Court decisions.
Explore Inventions Old and New
Modern inventions are often explored on the TV program “Modern Marvels” on the History Channel. Your family might enjoy watching this program together. Then, one night at the supper table, make a list of items your children have seen or used in their lifetimes: iPhones, Scotch tape, Kleenex, trains, radios, cars, jet airplanes, Wii, television, cell phones, iPods, dishwashers, dryers and washers, cameras, etc. The next night, add columns for parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, and work together to list the items these relatives have seen in their lifetimes. This will give your children a good timeline of what inventions each generation had.