30 Exploratory Activities for Fun and Learning

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Whether you’re running a sleep-away camp, working as a counselor at a day camp, or teaching at a program at your school, we salute our teachers who are working with kids during school breaks! We’ve gathered some fun, exploratory resources for you to use as you plan school break fun. This collection of resources is ideally suited for camp counselors and other staff looking for fun, educational activities to include in their daily schedule, as well as resources to help seed ideas for introducing topics to campers. See a sampling from each category below. Find the full collection here. Create a free account for full access.

Nature Education

Treasure Hunting
In this video, children find adventure in the great outdoors! At Lime Hollow, the group goes letterboxing, where they follow a set of directions that leads them to a box with a rubber stamp and booklet. In the booklet many other names can be found of people who have found the letterbox before them! The group then goes geocaching, where they input coordinates into their GPS to find a “treasure box.” Once they find it, they sign the booklet, take something from the box and leave something new they brought for the next adventurers!

Who Comes to the Feeder
In this activity students learn a few basic facts about the types of birds attracted to a common backyard feeder. If you have ever put up a seed feeder in your yard you know how interesting it can be to watch birds feed and interact with each other. What you may not be aware of is the fact that by watching the activity at the feeder, you are practicing one of the most basic scientific concepts, observation.

Camp Clear Creek
Meet up with a group of California middle school students, the Explorers, at the Clear Creek Outdoor Education Center. DragonflyTV follows them on a nature hike in Angeles National Forest where they learn about different plant communities. What do "riparian" and "chaparral" mean? Find out! Discover how the leaves of plants can be used to learn what type of ecosystem they are located in and how much water the plants have access to.

Pizza Gardens
This video demonstrates how to make a pizza from spring and summer gardens. Follow students from Cane Run Elementary as they make spring pizzas. Then head back to school as they make pizzas with traditional toppings from their own school garden.

Arts & Crafts

Animation in all its forms is one of the most popular creative careers that interests students these days. From hand-drawn animation, to stop-motion animation, to animation used to create videos games, there are endless possibilities when it comes to studying this dynamic art form. Learn about the many aspects of animation through this collection of seven videos highlighting a range of animation artists. With this collection of videos, learn about the history of animation in popular culture, and get tips on how to start a career as an animator.


Light Painting
Light has been an essential element in artwork for centuries. Light painters create electrifying images that blend photographs of the real world with layers of color and kinetic light. In the premiere episode of PBS Arts: Off Book, artists Aurora Crowley and Patrick Rochon demonstrate their light paint methodology, show off their electric works and describe the process that anyone can do at home.

Puppet Power
The tradition of using shadow puppets to tell stories dates back thousands of years, making it one of the oldest forms of motion-picture storytelling. Shadow puppet theater originated in India and China, where the tradition lives on today. Shadow puppets are often used to convey culturally important stories, such as myths, legends, folklore, and religious stories. This activity provides step-by-step instructions for creating a shadow puppet.

Step Re-Mix
Maybe you’ve never really considered yourself musical. That’s okay. Music is in all of us, and even just by listening to music, you’re tapping into its power. Step Re-Mix is a fun way to explore rhythm. This and other Exploratorium exhibits let you explore music in ways you probably haven’t before.

Crystal Sparkle Paint
Crystal Sparkle Paint is a hands-on science exploration for young children and their teachers, parents or caregivers. In this video, watch as children make a sparkly crystal paint by mixing a few common ingredients together. Create a sparkly paint using common ingredients and discover what happens after the paint dries. Examine the crystaline structures of the solids.


Bouncing Balloons
Explore sports equipment engineering in this SciGirls activity challenging students to design a super bouncy ball out of a balloon.

Workin' It Out
Compare different fitness activities with this SciGirls activity to help students discover exciting ways to continue improving their health. Staying active is an important part of your overall health. The key is to find activities that both raise your heart rate and that you enjoy doing. It is best to find a balance of aerobic activities for a healthy heart, strength training for strong muscles and bones, and activities that improve your flexibility to reduce injury.

How the Body Responds to Exercise
In this video segment adapted from NOVA, follow novice runners as they train for a marathon, and discover how quickly the body responds to regular aerobic exercise.

Summer Science

Blowin' in the Wind
Windmills have been used for thousands of years to grind grain, pump water, and even generate electricity. They lost popularity as new sources of energy, such as fossil fuels, arose. But the idea of using wind for energy has made a comeback in recent decades, and careers in wind energy are growing rapidly as the demand for clean energy increases. Students will built a windmill that lifts weight in this activity.

High Tech Fashion
What do you get when you combine fashion and electronics? Fun and functional clothing and accessories! Soft circuits are electronic circuits that use conductive threat instead of wire. With these circuits, you can make wearable designs that light up the runway.

Sink or Swim?
Investigate the properties of plastics with this SciGirls activity challenging students to identify the different plastics in a mystery bag. Plastics are everywhere: from car parts to drinking bottles to sports equipment. Each plastic is chemically unique and has distinct properties that make it suitable for certain products. Plastics are classified #1 through #7. To find out what type of plastic a product is made from, check the bottom of the object and locate the number inside the recycle symbol. Even though some recycling centers only accept certain numbers, all plastics with this symbol are recyclable. Markets just don't exist for all recycled products.

Simple Machines
How do you get a glove and a ball up to your tree house? One answer is to use a pulley. A pulley is a simple machine. In this original KET interactive, children learn about the basic workings of three simple machines. Machines make life easier—and sometimes more fun. A simple machine has few moving parts.


What Is a Robot?
In this activity, students are introduced to robots, including ones that exist in their everyday lives. They learn about the kinds of things that robots do, the excitement that goes with designing and testing, and what inspires ideas for different robots.

During the process of evolution, the survival of plant and animal species depends upon their ability to successfully adapt to different challenges in life. Is it far-fetched, then, to look for lessons in nature that might be applied to some of the challenges we face in technology? In this video segment adapted from NOVA, engineers are studying insect flight and hoping to gain insights into ways of designing and developing miniature flying vehicles that we may one day use for a variety of purposes.

Robot Body Language
These days social robots designed to interact with people are sold in stores as pets, house cleaners, and even healthcare assistants! To make these robots seem more humanlike, designers give them personalities using sounds, digital displays, and gestures. Explore the psychology of expressions using this SciGirls activity challenging students to convey an emotion while their faces are hidden.

Programming a Robot
In this video segment from Cyberchase, the CyberSquad has shrunk Matt and sent him inside Hacker to insert a memory chip that will change Hacker from evil to good. When a force field causes problems, the CyberSquad must program a robot to rescue Matt. And in order to get the robot to do what they want, they must break a task into a sequence of simple steps that the robot can follow.


The Night Sky: Past and Present
In this video from QUEST North Carolina produced by UNC-TV, learn about the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute's work to digitally catalogue the first 120 years of night sky record keeping and enable time-domain astronomy studies.

The Formation of Stars
Learn about the formation of stars and planets, and how the James Webb Space Telescope will help us better understand solar system formation, in this video from NASA. Images from the Hubble Space Telescope show star-forming regions within the Eagle nebula: visible light images show vast clouds of gas and dust, and infrared images provide a glimpse inside the clouds. The James Webb Space Telescope will be optimized for infrared observations and give astronomers an unprecedented view of stellar birth. Computer models show how a giant cloud of gas and dust collapses to form stars and planets; reddish colors indicate thicker dust.

The Star In You
In this article and slideshow from NOVA scienceNOW, learn how the Big Bang and the life cycles of stars created every single atom in your body. The lightest chemical elements (such as hydrogen and helium) originated with the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago. All other elements(including carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen) were made by stars. The text describes how stars are born, how thermonuclear reactions inside stars produce elements up to iron, how red giants and supernovas produce elements heavier than iron, and how the elements are dispersed from stars into space and incorporated into you.

Our Super Star
Our star, the Sun, is an ordinary star. It is not particularly special compared to other stars in the universe; however, it is crucially important to us. As the massive energy source at the center of our solar system, the Sun is responsible for Earth's climate, weather, and life. In this lesson, students use observations, activities, and videos to learn basic facts about the Sun. Students also model the mechanics of day and night and use solar energy to make a tasty treat.


How Big Is Our Universe?
Astronomical distances can be difficult to comprehend. The star nearest to Earth, our Sun, is about 150 million kilometers (93 million miles) away. The next closest star system is about 4 light-years (4 x 1013 km or 2.5 x 1013 mi) away and the nearest galaxy is about 2 million light-years (2 x 1019 km or 1.2 x 1019 mi) away. This interactive resource from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics illustrates the immense scale of the universe and demonstrates some techniques astronomers use to measure distances.