Blog: Bright Ideas

Hands-On Summer Activities for Older Kids Engage All Parts of the Brain

Everybody has a learning style, and no two are alike. Some of us are very visual, needing to see a problem with our eyes, while others are auditory and can picture images in their heads. Still others are hands-on learners who absorb information best when they have access to objects they can hold and manipulate. The majority of people, however, prefer some combination of learning modalities, or learn differently in different situations. Summer is the perfect time for kids to take advantage of the opportunity to experience new and unique ways of learning that may not be available to them during the school year. With no report card grades or test scores to worry about, it’s a great opportunity for some hands-on summer activities and experiential learning that lets older kids learn by doing, engaging both body and mind.

Encourage Inquiry Activities

Summertime means a more relaxed vibe with time to follow curiosity and exercise creativity. Challenging kids to keep their brains active, learning and creating, is important. With more time available and fewer academic demands, it’s a great opportunity to have some fun together while learning from the experience. Maybe a trip to the hardware store becomes a scavenger hunt. Or you assemble some common materials and trail mix ingredients and work together to construct a snack mix machine. Take advantage of the warm summer days to build a butterfly feeder or a solar oven with which to make hot dogs and s’mores. In each case, hands-on activities will get kids thinking, and some meaningful discussion will activate additional learning centers in the brain. The pleasure of the shared inquiry will create warm memories of the time spent together.

Learning By Doing

As learners, older kids can be very independent, capable of spending hours focused on a task. They are open to in-depth investigation when the subject captivates their interest. And though kids can get caught up in an independent activity, they also love to collaborate with their friends. Very social at this age, kids will willingly get involved in elaborate projects or challenges when they have the support of their peers. A summer camp that offers experiential learning is a powerful way to engage all parts of the brain. Projects challenge kids intellectually while giving them hands-on exposure, all in collaboration with knowledgeable mentors and a team of their peers.

Galileo Summer Quest Campers playing outdoors.

The Benefits Of Experiential Learning

When kids take on an active role in a real-world project, something wonderful happens. Their self-image starts to reflect the confidence placed in them and grows to include their new capabilities. 

  • Experiential learning means learning by doing. Kids get deeply involved: hands-on, minds-on. As Confucius is credited with observing: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” For example, by managing all the details to produce YouTube videos, kids learn creative and technical skills as they gain confidence with oral presentation. 
  • Kids are given access to the tools and materials necessary for success and are supported by expert mentors. They are actively engaged and empowered. Experiential learning is similar to an apprenticeship where you learn on the job. For example, earning to complete an electrical circuit is essential when kids create a robot pet.
  • Content and skills are not learned in isolation, but in the context of the process. As campers learn something new, they immediately put it into practice. Understanding the design cycle gives kids a step-by-step process to do things like mod-ify Minecraft® to fit their own custom design. 
  • Experiential learning is a process fraught with mistakes and rapid prototyping. Kids must use multiple parts of the brain as they analyze problems and think creatively to generate solutions. Envisioning a unique design and writing the code to create a mobile game requires testing and troubleshooting before the launch, for example.

Hands-On Summer Activities For Every Interest

Galileo Summer Quest offers a wide variety of intensive majors that activate curiosity and prime kids’ brains for learning. In each, campers entering 5th through 8th grades are introduced to experiential learning that is immersive and engaging, but more importantly, a lot of fun. Learning and practicing skills in a relevant context is particularly empowering to older kids. Designing an escape room, for example, requires critical thinking and organizational skills. As kids design and test their puzzles, they get feedback from their team. Kids who can imagine cooking in a solar oven will be intrigued by the Chefology major where they will concentrate on reinventing their favorite breakfast foods or indulging their sweet tooth by imagining creative dessert recipes. 

A hardware store scavenger hunt can lead to using hand and power tools to transform wood, rubber and steel into a working go-kart. And if they stick around for a second week of camp, they can continue refining their carpentry skills as they can create a projectile-launching catapult that challenges the dynamics of potential energy. Several GSQ majors also allow kids to get their hands-on the latest technology. Whether modeling their own designs on a 3-D printer or telling their story through virtual reality, campers will engage both the creative and technical centers of their brains.

Galileo Summer Quest campers building a Go Kart

Experiential Learning Leads To Transformation

Every GSQ major has an underlying mission to inspire kids to be innovators. Each motivates a growth mindset that encourages them to take risks and learn from their mistakes. Campers learn an innovation process that helps them envision and believe themselves capable of creating a better world. The problem-solving techniques learned apply to all knowledge domains, and the design process they practice can be transferred to many future contexts. Kids emerge from their experience with new skills, new friends and more confidence in themselves.  If hands-on fun that activates all parts of the brain is on your kid’s summer to-do list, consider a camp where experiential learning combines 21st-century skills with immersive role play, and watch the transformation happen. 

Check out the opportunities to experience hands-on summer fun in your area: San Francisco, Southern California, and Chicagoland. Enroll in a camp session or sign up for our mailing list to keep up-to-date with camp happenings and innovation resources. Or, for more information about Galileo camps, contact us here