By Ricky Vigil, Youth Services Afterschool Program Coordinator
It seems like forever since the school year kicked off in late August and youth involved in the Afterschool Programs at Youth Services have been waiting for winter. While the change of season is nice students can still be encouraged to find enriching activities rather than sleeping and zoning out in front of their TV’s. Multiple studies have shown that summer learning loss is a huge issue faced by students regardless of their socioeconomic situation and grade level, with the average student losing about a month’s worth of learning competency throughout the three month summer break every school year. While little research has been conducted on the two weeks students customarily spend out of class at the end of each calendar year, exercising one’s brain can never be a bad thing. Here are several fun activities and websites that may not be as in-depth as an average day of school, but may help keep students sharp throughout the winter months.
Hour of Code (code.org): Launched in 2013, Code.org seeks to instill a love (and understanding) of computer into young students. Through a number of interactive coding activities that ramp up in difficulty, students can explore the worlds of Frozen, Minecraft, Star Wars and more as they solve puzzles through some lightly-camouflaged computer programming. Hour of Code has become a go-to activity in our Afterschool Program for students looking for something to do after finishing their homework, and is a great resource for gently introducing coding into students’ skill sets and interests.
Holiday Themed STEM Activities: This list of activities curated by local librarians features some fun and easy exercises utilizing materials you already have at home. Most of these activities are geared towards younger students, so they might need help of their parents or older siblings—which is a good thing! Even if you aren’t scientifically minded, discovering how things work and learning to admit that you don’t know something are crucial skills that may be gained from this activity by kids and parents alike.
Mental Floss: Why?: A slightly more high-brow version of popular list-based websites such as Buzzfeed, Mental Floss has curated a section intended to answer some common questions from curious kids. Ranging from age-old stumpers such as “Why is the sky blue?” to equally valid yet slightly more gross questions about bodily functions, this section of the website is a great way for kids to get answers about these questions as well as think of questions for themselves. Mental Floss also has some great quizzes and brain teasers for older kids, though, as with so many websites on the internet, you may fall into a blackhole of funny animal pictures from which you may never escape.
Jeopractice: Compiling over 30-years’ worth of questions from the venerable quiz show, Jeopractice is a great way to test the trivia knowledge of teens and adults alike. Unlike the questions from popular trivia apps such as Trivia Crack or websites like Cahoot, these questions are official Jeopardy! questions, meaning that they have been fact checked and won’t steer quiz-takers astray.
The Science of Star Wars: Star Wars is hard to escape, and while many websites will be focusing on deconstructing every scene, National Geographic has this insightful article about real-life science inspired by the sci-fi juggernaut. It’s a fun read, and a great way to parlay interest in Star Wars into some real life interest in science.
As always, the Internet can be our greatest ally in learning and productivity as well as our greatest enemy in procrastination, so make sure that your student isn’t falling to the dark side. The winter months are crucial for revitalization and relaxation, but students will be able to sprinkle some discovery and brain exercise into the mix as well.
For more information about all of Salt Lake County Youth Services Afterschool Programs please call 385-468-4500 or visit www.youth.slco.org.