Along with the sunscreen and (reusable) water bottles, there’s a new must-have for camps and other programs this summer—PLT’s new activity guide, Explore Your Environment, just launched in April 2021.
Why turn to PLT during the summer? Explore Your Environment activities are:
- Easy to use and implement
- Flexible in complying with social distancing guidelines
They are also educational, but let’s circle back to “fun!” After this past year, kids need a way to safely connect with friends and enjoy what they are doing, learning, and creating. While PLT is relevant anytime, it is perfect for the summer of 2021.
How to Start?
You may already know that Explore Your Environment offers 50 field-tested, hands-on activities that integrate investigations of nature with science, language arts, and other subjects. The guide is fresh, user-friendly, and works indoors and outdoors.
Whether you already know the guide, or if this is your first experience, I suggest starting with the “At-a-Glance” Index on pages 420-421 to use PLT in a summer setting. Have a look at the “ICONS” section and identify activities that are exemplars in three areas that benefit summer camps: “OUTDOORS” “NONFORMAL,” and “STEM.” If youth are attending your camp for an extended timeframe, the “LONGTERM” activities are also helpful to check out.
Here’s what these icons mean for your planning:
- The OUTDOORS icon is found on 20 activities. These activities require an outdoor setting to meet the learning outcomes.
- The NONFORMAL icon is found on 25 activities in the guide. These activities work especially well in nonformal education settings – like summer camps!
- The STEM icon is found on 20 activities in the guide. These activities are science-technology-engineering-and-math exemplars, great for the many summer programs with this focus. These activities combine all 4 subject elements while engaging students in problem-solving.
- 13 activities in the guide feature the LONGTERM icon. These activities work well in timeframes extended beyond two 50-minute periods of instruction, so if you have the same campers for a week or more, you may want to thread these activities into their experience.
How to Choose?
Okay, you are probably thinking, that still is a lot of activities to decide between. When reviewing the activities, consider your campers and location. I recommend the following:
- Identify activities where students are physically active and manipulating objects over researching or other important but more sedentary activities.
- Identify rainy-day options. It’s always good to have an arsenal of high-quality indoor activities for inclement weather.
- Identify the most active simulations to focus on fun while still maintaining adequate safety spacing.
- Depending on the guidelines in your community, consider the top 8 activities that we have found most appropriate for socially distancing.
PLT activities are organized by grade band (K-2, 3-5, 6-8), although we offer suggestions for how to adapt most of them for younger or older kids. This is especially important in summer programs that may have more fluid age groupings.
As examples, here are three activities—one for each grade band—that check off a lot of the “must-have” summer camp boxes: Have Seeds Will Travel (Grades K-2), Get Outside! (Grades 3-5), and Nature’s Skyscrapers (Grades 6-8).
- Have Seeds, Will Travel is a great STEM exemplar with an engineering design challenge. While it has outdoor components, the “design a seed challenge” works great at an indoor activity station or even on a rainy day. You could also pre-collect seed samples for a successful activity station if needed.
- Get Outside! is a brand new, very physical activity that connects being outside to healthy lifestyles. Consider using this one after a camp lunch or snack break to get youth moving again. It’s also a great one to pull out if attention is waning and you need to get up and get moving to prompt engagement.
- Nature’s Skyscrapers is a great activity to help older kids with math in a fun way. Kids don’t even realize they are doing fractions, equations, and calculations as they are trying to determine tree height in creative ways. You can also adapt this activity indoors, such as by measuring the height of a basketball hoop in a gym or exposed air vents high up on the walls. Nature’s Skyscrapers is also a great activity to connect to green careers. For help making those connections, download the Career Corners at plt.org/myk8guide (brief, free login required). You can also check out more Career Fact Sheets at plt.org/workingforforests.
How to Access the Guide This Summer?
PLT’s state programs offer not only the guide but also lots more resources to help modify and adapt PLT content for your unique setting. When you contact your State Coordinator, you will also be connected with professional development, networking, and other support available in your community.
You can also purchase the guide directly through shop.plt.org.
And for those of you who will be using PLT back at school in the fall, asynchronous professional development on the new Explore Your Environmental: K-8 Activity Guide will be available for back-to-school in August of this year.
In the meantime, happy summer with PLT!