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Summer exploration begins here.

Summer exploration begins here.

“Summertime is always the best of what might be.”

– Charles Bowden

What do Marco Polo, Sacagawea, and Neil Armstrong have in common? They’re all famous explorers! Although students won’t be traveling to the moon this summer (or will they?), summer gives them a chance to explore and learn about the world.

Whether it’s exploring a local library or exploring the vast distances between planets in the solar system, it’s crucial that students remained engaged throughout summer. Each week through the end of August, we’re highlighting different math and reading activities for students. These activities combine warm-weather topics and fun activities to motivate students and celebrate the joy of learning over the summer months, leading to success in the fall. Want to make sure your students have access to these activities? Simply share this page with your students’ parents before the end of the school year.

Go ahead, explore a few of the activities below!

P.S. Want to further your own learning this summer? Our educator resources highlight a handful of our most popular resources—and they're all free and handpicked just for you.


Although the end of summer vacation is bittersweet, the new school year offers a clean slate. Between seeing friends, meeting new teachers, and students entering a new grade, there is a lot to be excited about—for students and educators. As students prepare for the new year, help them reflect on their summer vacations, what they enjoyed most, and what they’re looking forward to this school year with a simple icebreaker game.


  1. Form a circle so everyone faces each other. If the weather is nice, take advantage of it and go outside!
  2. Ask students what they did over their summer vacations. Did they travel anywhere? What about the new school year? What are they most excited about?
  3. Make connections between students. For example, did two students visit the same state? Did a few students go swimming during their summer vacations?


Did you know August 19 is National Aviation Day? Established in 1939 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, National Aviation Day celebrates aeronautics as well as the history and future of aviation. August 19 was originally chosen because it was Orville Wright’s birthday. To celebrate, help students create paper airplanes using mathematics and measure their hang times!


  • 8.5” x 11” paper
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Glue
  • A stopwatch


  1. Give each student an 8.5” x 11” piece of paper. Encourage students to explore different paper airplane designs. (Check out for design inspiration!)
  2. Once students are finished folding and building their paper airplanes, encourage a little friendly competition to see which paper airplane flies the furthest.
  3. After the competition, ask students why they think some designs did better than others. What would they change about their designs if they were to do it again?


The National Parks System spans more than 84 million acres all over the nation, including Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam. Established in 1916, the National Park Service oversees the National Parks System and helps preserve our parks for future generations.

From giant redwoods to cherry trees, there are tons of different trees in our national parks. In fact, did you know the world’s tallest tree is in Redwood National Park? It’s a staggering 379 feet!

Help students estimate the height of a tree!


  1. Encourage students to find a tree they want to measure. Have them slowly walk away from the tree until they can bend over and see it through their legs.
  2. If students cannot see the top of the tree through their legs, have them walk further away until they can see the top branches.
  3. Using a tape measure, have students measure the distance between them and the tree on the ground. Ta-da! That’s roughly the height of the tree!


Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California…can you name all 50 U.S. states? What about the original 13 states? Since 1776, our nation has grown considerably. Whether you live in one of the 13 original states or in the last to join the nation, there is a ton of history about each one. Take a moment to explore Accelerated Reader BookFinder™ and read about each state’s rich history.

Books in a Box: Lutie Stearns and the Traveling Libraries of Wisconsin
By Stuart Stotts
Imagine living in a remote part of Wisconsin in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century and having no access to literature. Lutie Stearns made it her life’s mission to change that.

Down the Colorado: John Wesley Powell, the One-Armed Explorer
By Deborah Kogan Ray
John Wesley Powell lost his right arm below the elbow in the Civil War, but that never stopped him from being curious about the world around him. Based on a true story, the story follows Powell’s journey down the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon.

Texas Rangers: Legendary Lawmen
By Michael Spradlin
In the 1820’s, the Texas frontier was a rugged, lawless place that needed defending. The men who kept the peace and policed the frontier were known as the Texas Rangers. The Texas Rangers played a significant role in Texas’s history, fighting at the Alamo and in the Mexican-American War and helping  develop towns throughout the Wild West.

+ Bonus Activity: Print out blank maps of the United States and have students fill in the name of each state. Encourage them to color in the 13 original states so they stand out from the rest. Ask them a few questions, such as “What was the last state to join the nation?” and “ Is it possible that we’ll have more than 50 states one day?”


Imagine a crackling fire, gooey marshmallows and chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers, and the rustling of nearby water. Camping allows us to unplug from the digital world and appreciate earth. Summer is the perfect time to go camping and explore nature. Ready to plan a camping trip? Have students bring a few materials to map their campsites.

Map your campsite!
Help students map their campsites and practice their mapping skills. Here’s what they’ll need:

  • Colored pencils
  • Paper


  1. Take a moment to look around the campsite. Ask students to make a list of the different objects they see, including large trees and shrubs.
  2. Using the list, encourage students to draw the different objects in relation to how they appear to other objects. Use a tent or a large tree as reference points.
  3. For some objects, it might be easier to create symbols. Create a legend in the corner of the map and let others know what each symbol means.

Want to shake it up a bit? Break out the grid paper and have students measure the distances between different objects using a legend to detail distances on the map.


Merriam-Webster defines time as, “The measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues.” Time is something that is difficult to understand despite being a significant part of our lives. It seems as though we’re always running late, making plans to meet friends, and trying to balance our free time with our work time. Humans have tracked time for ages, beginning with sundials and observations of the sun. This week, help students do the same thing and figure out the time using the sun!

Create a paper plate sundial!
Encourage students to create their very own sundial! Here’s what they’ll need:

  • A paper plate
  • A plastic straw
  • Colored pencils
  • A sharpened pencil


  1. Using a sharpened pencil, poke a small hole in the middle of a paper plate.
  2. Write 1, 2, 3, and so on around the paper plate to resemble a clock face with the colored pencils. Encourage students to personalize their clocks and make them unique with different colors and designs.
  3. Take the plastic straw and stick it through the hole the students poked earlier to keep it from falling over.
  4. Place the completed sundial outside during a sunny day. (It might be a good idea to stick students’ sundials into the ground with pushpins so the wind doesn’t blow them away.)
  5. Check the sundials each hour and observe how the shadow moves around the clock face.

Ask students why they think the shadow moves throughout the day and discuss the impact of time on our lives.


Did you know that on average, July is the warmest time of the year for most of the United States? Although it may be warm out, rain could be coming! This week, help students measure rainfall and compare their findings to local averages.

Make your very own rain gauge!
Encourage students to measure and record rainfall throughout the summer months with this easy-to-create rain gauge. Here’s what they’ll need:

  • A clear Mason jar
  • A permanent marker
  • A ruler


  1. Using the ruler, mark every inch with a permanent marker on the Mason jar. (Students might also want to mark every half inch for more precise measurements.)
  2. Place the Mason jar outside somewhere it can catch rain but not be knocked over easily.
  3. Check the Mason jar after rainy days and record the rainfall amount.

Ready to compare? Visit and compare/contrast the average rainfall for the month with how much rainfall students actually recorded with their Mason jars. How do the measurements compare? Was there more rain than average this month or less? What are students’ predictions for next month?

Since 1776, the United States has celebrated its independence from the British Empire. However, the Fourth of July didn’t become a federal holiday until 1870. Whether your students’ Fourth of July was filled with fireworks, grilling, or both, what better way to continue the celebration than reading about the land of the free?

Biscuit’s Fourth of July
By Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Biscuit helps his family celebrate the Fourth of July. There's a parade and fireworks to watch, and lots of treats to share with friends and family.

Apple Pie 4th of July
By Janet Wong
Shocked that her parents are cooking Chinese food to sell in the family store for the Fourth of July, a Chinese American girl tries to convince her parents to do otherwise. However, she learns a surprising lesson.

Five 4ths of July
By Pat Hughes
On July 4, 1777, 14-year-old Jake Mallory and his friends are celebrating their new nation's independence. Over the next four years, Jake finds himself in increasingly adventurous circumstances, but he remains hopeful for America's future.

Did students attend any celebrations with fireworks for the Fourth of July? How many fireworks did they see? How long did the fireworks last? Encourage students to bring math into the discussion and figure out who saw the most fireworks over the holiday!

We are all unique. We all have different interests, passions, and views of the world around us. Take a moment to celebrate those differences by asking students to describe themselves without words!

Figure me out!
Challenge students to describe themselves using only numbers. (To really mix it up, have students describe themselves using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division as well.)

An example:

My last name has 7 letters.
I am 12 x 2 years old.
I have 2 cats.
My shoe size is 6 + 4.
I have lived in 3 - 1 different cities.
My favorite number is 40 / 2.

Students will enjoy coming up with clever ways to describe themselves, and they might even learn a thing or two about themselves in the process. (Bonus points if students are able to put their descriptions together to create a short story!)

Did you know June is National Zoo and Aquarium Month? Zoos and aquariums play an important role in animal conservation, education, and research. Encourage students to design their own zoos and visit their local zoos and aquariums this month for some inspiration!

Congratulations! You’ve been selected to design a zoo!
Ask students to design their own unique zoos on grid paper using the following guidelines:

  • Select six different animals for the zoo. Which ones did students choose? Why?
  • Each animal enclosure will need to be a different size or shape. (e.g. rectangles, squares, circles, triangles).
    • Which animals will need a larger enclosure?
    • What kind of habitat will each animal live in?
    • Label each enclosure and include dimensions for each figure.
    • Calculate the area and perimeter of each enclosure.
  • Students will need to include a cafe, restrooms, and gift shop in their zoos as well. Make sure they label the buildings and include dimensions for each one.



This week is the 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo, commonly known as E3. Each year, a multitude of companies come together in Los Angeles, California to unveil new technology. One of the main technologies that has emerged in recent years is virtual reality. Virtual reality allows us to explore different worlds and interact within those worlds. Generally, it shows us an image, often using 3D technology, and makes it seem as if we’re really there. (Imagine the possibilities in education!) Take a moment to explore virtual reality and the places it may take us in the years to come.

Where will we end up?

Here’s a fun writing prompt. Ask students to write about a real or imaginary world they would like to visit using virtual reality. It could be courtside at a basketball game or a trip to upside-down land, the possibilities are endless. What did they write about? Did they write about a real place or an imaginary one? Take the activity to the next level and encourage them to think critically. How will virtual reality affect our lives in the future? How will we use it?


"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." – Neil Armstrong

Nearly 50 years ago, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon and were the first people to step onto the lunar surface. Fast forward to today, astronauts are exploring Mars and the rest of the galaxy! This week, encourage students to explore space and help them prepare for a trip to Mars!

Congratulations! You’ve won a trip to Mars!
Ask students to choose five items that they would take with them to Mars and explain why, assuming that food and basic items for survival are already packed. Encourage them to write about each item and draw pictures. (Remember, there is no cell phone service up in space!) If students are unsure where to start, ask them a few questions to kickstart their imaginations.

Want to shake it up a bit? Assign students dimensions for their boxes. Are they still able to bring the five items that they originally chose? How much space do they have in their boxes? Encourage students to use as much of the space in their boxes as possible. What if the dimensions are changed again?


Summer is a great time to encourage students to go outside and explore. From National Parks to the local park down the road, there is somewhere worth exploring. This week, help students create nature notebooks and encourage them to look for symmetry in nature!

Create a nature notebook!
Students can create their very own nature notebook in just a few minutes. Here’s what they’ll need:

  • Cardboard
  • Hole Punch
  • String
  • Paper
  • Pencil/Pen


  1. Place a few sheets of paper on top of the cardboard. Use the hole punch to punch three holes along one side of the cardboard and paper.
  2. Line up the holes in the cardboard and paper. Thread a single piece of string through each hole to hold the cardboard and paper in place. Tie the ends and ta-da! You now have your very own nature notebook.
  3. Find a nice spot to observe nature! (Bonus points if you can spot ten things in nature that have symmetry, such as butterflies and flowers!)

Did you know that the World Ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth's surface? It’s true! In fact, 97 percent of all the water on the Earth is ocean water. Join us this week as we explore our oceans and learn about their importance in our initial summer exploration topic. We'll highlight a few books and do a little math!

The Rainbow Fish
By Marcus Pfister
A modern classic, The Rainbow Fish is a favorite among those young and old. It tells the story of a fish who learns to make friends by sharing his most prized possessions—his shimmering scales.

Life of Pi
By Yann Martel
Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel. Pi, the main character, survives a shipwreck with several animals and with intelligence, daring and inexpressible fear, manages to keep his wits about him as the animals begin to assert their places in the food chain.

The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor
By Joanna Cole
Mrs. Frizzle and her class are off on another adventure! This time, they learn about the ocean and all the different types of creatures that inhabit it. Get ready to dive in!


Bring math into the discussion! Did you know the top three biggest oceans are the Pacific Ocean (30 percent), the Atlantic Ocean (21 percent), and the Indian Ocean (14 percent)?

Can you figure out what percentage of the total World Ocean that these three oceans make up? What about the percent of the World Ocean that is made up by other oceans? Besides the vast difference in size, how else are our oceans different? Ask students to create a pie chart displaying the different percentages.


Do you know someone who would love to discover these activities?


Share this page with them!


Looking for more inspiration?

Explore our reading and math resources.

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