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“Dear Teacher” is a monthly education column written by experienced educators and parents.

Summer Learning Activities

Parents: Summer is increasingly becoming a more academic time. Many students are now even assigned homework over the summer. This is largely happening because teachers know that young children may forget as much as 25 percent of what they have learned during the school year in the summer.

This summer we have selected a number of social studies activities that should make that subject come alive and will be fun for your children to do. They can find even more activities on the Dear Teacher website under “Social Studies Activities.”

Social Studies Fun Online

Since today’s children spend so much time online, have your children visit what we believe are outstanding social studies websites and choose several activities to do. Besides being able to make virtual visits to historic spots, from the White House to Mt. Vernon, they will find endless games that will actually increase their knowledge of social studies. Here are two excellent free websites to visit (you can easily use search engines to find others):

  1. Exploring Government for Kids (kids.gov) should be your first website visit. Besides being a safe site for kids to visit, it offers content on government, history and social studies, as well as games and videos. Plus, from there you can go to your state’s website and usually find many state-related activities in the social studies arena.
  1. Since schools often provide limited instruction in geography, visit the student pages on Education.NationalGeographic.com for many map, weather and other activities.

Learn about the Presidents through Movies and Videos

Most children like to watch movies. This is an easy and enjoyable way to help children learn about the individuals who have led our country. The majority of these movies are best for children in middle school and beyond. Avoid showing your children movies about the presidents that are largely fictional.

You may wish to preview or read reviews of the movies before showing any of them to your children. Here are a few suggestions of movies that will acquaint your children with our presidents:

Dwight Eisenhower: “Ike: Countdown to D-Day”

John F. Kennedy: “Thirteen Days,” “PT 109”

Abraham Lincoln: “Lincoln,” “The Day Lincoln Was Shot”

Richard Nixon: “Nixon,” “Frost/Nixon”

Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Sunrise at Campobello,” “Warm Springs”

Several television series have documentaries of our presidents that you can find online. One good one is the American Experience series “The Presidents,” on pbs.org.

Continue the theme of helping your children become better acquainted with our presidents by letting them watch virtual tours of their homes and sites related to their lives. More can be learned about every president, from Washington through Bush, on the National Park Service’s website at www.nps.gov/nr/travel/presidents. Click on “List of Sites” to enjoy tours for different presidents as well as stories about these places.

Younger children will enjoy videos of presidential pets. You can find quite a number of videos on the Animal Planet website. They are quite entertaining.

Making a Time Capsule

A time capsule is a way to give people in the future an idea of what life was like when the capsule was made. It can be opened in a year or hundreds of years later. Today, more than 10,000 time capsules exist, excluding personal ones. Interestingly, 11 were left on the moon and four in space. Most are in the cornerstones of new buildings.

Explain to your children that they will fill a container with things that are important to them right now in their daily lives. The container can be placed somewhere in your home, such as a closet or filing cabinet. If buried somewhere, the container should be so tight that it will not let in either air or water. Point out to the children that these capsules will be a lot of fun for them to open as adults. For example, it would give their children an idea of what their parents’ lives were like. If they are really impatient, they could open the time capsule next summer to see what they thought was truly important this year. It might not be so next year.

Here are some suggestions of things that children might want to put into a time capsule: today’s newspapers or magazines, books, toys, clothing, personal notes about their current activities, predictions about the future, pictures, a video or anything that the children currently use or is of value to them.

 Learning about the Census

FactFinder at factfinder.census.gov (community facts) and Wikipedia.org (2010 census) are both good online sources for census information. Children can begin learning about the census by finding out how many children between 5 and 9 and 10 and 14 lived in their zip code in 2010. Then they should break this information down into the number of boys and girls in each age group. Next, they should determine what age group has the most people in their zip code. Have them guess first whether there will be more people over or under 21.

Older children can look at the census figures for 2000 and 2010 to determine if their state’s population is increasing or decreasing. They can also expand their investigation of census reports to earlier censuses to see how the population of our nation changed between 1900 and 2000.

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About Author

Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts have taught at every level from kindergarten through college and have co-authored more than 100 books. They have also been in the trenches getting six children through school. Their children have run the gamut, from being in gifted and talented programs to special education resource rooms. Because of their experiences, they see themselves as interpreters between parents and schools as they have been on both sides.

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