Summer is fast approaching and so are the “I’m bored, there is nothing to do” mantras that children often start chanting by mid-July. If you want to head off your kids’ boredom this year, you will want to read this article. Sure we all know about going to the park and other traditional summer activities but that is not what this article is about. I am going to share with you 10 boredom busting solutions that you may have not thought of before. Most of the boredom busting solutions are educational and help others to boot! Here they are:
1. How to Smile
The University of California in Berkley maintains this website and it is chock full of free, entertaining, educational math and science activities to keep your little ones learning all summer long. Some of the creative activities offered include building an edible model of the earth, creating a make-shift archeological site where the kids can play amateur scientist and a boat building project that is just perfect for budding boaters.
2. Mastodon Matrix Project
Talk about hands on! This project allows everyday citizens to help analyze material excavated from a mastodon dig site in New York. It is run by the Museum of the Earth and the Paleontological Research Institution and there is a modest $10 participation fee. The materials with instructions on how to analysis it are sent to participants through the United States Postal System so you don’t have to be living in a certain area to participate.
3. Fire Fly Watch
When my children were little we use to spend summer evenings catching fire flies in a jar. Today’s families may do more than that; they can help scientists keep track of the charming creatures through this program maintained by the Museum of Science in Boston, Fitchburg State College and Tufts University.
4. Project BudBurst
This website is the result of collaboration between the Chicago Botanic Garden and the National Ecological Observatory Network. In addition to free activity sheets, lesson plans and certificates, families get to actually participate in collecting data as part of the group’s Citizen Scientists program. Participation is easy. Basically all you need to do is monitor the plants all year long and report your findings on the website as you go. This project is a great opportunity for parents to encourage their children’s natural curiosity about the environment and help out the scientific community all at the same time.
5. Nature’s Notebook
The National Phenology Network is another organization that is encouraging people to observe animals and plants in the name of science and fun. The free program is called Nature’s Notebook and sign up is a breeze. Once a family is signed up, they simply log on periodically to record their observations much in the same way as those participating in Project BudBurst.
6. Nest Watch
Are your children aspiring avian aficionados? If not now, they may be after participating in Nest Watch, the brainchild of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. Participants gather information on birds in their community and record that information online. Like some of the other programs mentioned in this article, the data collected is used by scientists and participation is gratis.
7. Great Sunflower Project
Though the title of this project suggests that it is all about sunflowers, that is not the case. It is actually about wild bees and their behavior, but before you study the bees you will need to plant bee friendly plants like sunflowers and purple coneflowers. Participation in the project is free,
8. Sound Around You
Ever wonder what other parts of the world sound like? The Acoustics Research Centre at the University of Salford has and that is why they are asking people’s help in creating a sound map of the world. In order to participate all you need to do is record sounds from around your community and upload them to the organization’s website.
9. Jelly Watch
Spending some time at the beach this summer? Why not make it an educational affair by tracking jelly fish while you are there? Once you return home record what you saw on the website so marine biologists may use your information in their research. You can even upload photos of your jelly fish finds. Participation in the program is complimentary.
While you are lying in the grass looking up at the clouds this summer, make a note of what you see and share it with the folks at National Aeronautics and Space Administration through their student’s clouds observation website.
Are you hungry for more boredom buster ideas? A good resource for learning about additional programs like the one’s mentioned above is the website Science for Citizens. It provides a comprehensive directory of citizen science projects available throughout the world, year round.
Science for Citizens, “Project Finder” Science for Citizens