Back-to-school: three local hands-on activities to jumpstart your school year - MetroFamily Magazine
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Back-to-school: three local hands-on activities to jumpstart your school year

by Callie Collins

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

Oklahoma City family fun can help you transition into a new school year. 

This last weekend in July comes with a nagging pull: school is about to start again. 

Some families are just beginning that labor-intensive back-to-school shopping while others are filling in those last few items. That's the easy part, I think. I always feel like shopping is much more efficient than the more gradual mental shift of changing routines, implementing earlier bedtimes and fostering renewed enthusiasm for learning. 

That enthusiasm often stems from making school applicable to what kids already know and can relate to in daily living. Supplies and textbooks aside, learning doesn't have to feel like a chore. 

I can only speak for our household but I am certain my sons feel more enthusiastic about the new school year when we gear up with some preparation together beforehand that isn't just hours of shopping. Keeping up with workbooks over the summer is one thing and that's great but there's just a little time left to get out of the house and see our community too.

Here are three easy activities to help jumpstart that back-to-school mindset:  

Visit a local museum: Plan an afternoon trip to a local venue. Click here for MetroFamily's list of current museum exhibitions. I can personally recommend the Oklahoma City Museum of Art with its Kehinde Wiley focus. Admission is free for children under 18 for one last weekend. The exhibition lets children learn about art in a way that doesn't feel forced. The contemporary approach feels more relevant. If you're up for a road trip, try the Stafford Air & Space Museum. We went a few weeks ago and I've never seen my kids so excited about science, which is a lot to say at our house, because space is a daily conversation here, with astronauts as household names. That visit is something they will remember forever and it's a great launch into "You'll love school this year because you'll be learning about the Space Race, the scientific method, how the physics of flight come together" and so many more comparisons. "Bodies Revealed," the national tour display, is at Science Museum Oklahoma through Oct. 29. I'm going next week with my sons and plan to blog about the experience right after.

Try a science experiment: I took a week's vacation at the beginning of the month and reserved one full afternoon to do something we ordinarily wouldn't. Isaac is headed to kindergarten this fall but before he goes, he really wants to do some "just you and me" activities. We have a DK book, "Look, I'm a Scientist" that features hands-on experiments and it's a really age-appropriate title for him because the instructions are step-by-step. Parental supervision, though, is needed for pretty much every experiment, craft or project my children want to do. We settled on making slime with dish soap and corn starch. Isaac used a whisk and ladles and spatulas. We had a great time figuring out fun textures and squishing through the aqua-colored mess that instantly turned to bubbles with water contact. Find simple science experiments here on MetroFamily's website. Pro tip: Go outside for any new science experiments. The patio would have been a better surface for experimenting than my kitchen table. I tell my children they each get one major mess in childhood that I won't fuss about and the slime checked that box for Isaac. I was happy to facilitate that, though, and I can't complain because he had such a memorable time at it. The book is included in MetroFamily's Back-to-School giveaway. Click here to enter to win before Aug. 9. 

Visit a local professional: My oldest son will be in fifth grade this year. He responds when asked that he wants to be a geologist when he grows up. I don't know if that's what he will do, as I see him more inclined to social sciences, but I want him to decide for himself and have something in mind. He'll need science courses and have choices about those starting next year, in middle school. It's a little more difficult with that particular field but I think job shadowing is important at a young age, not when you're 18 or 20. Make some calls and see if there's a caring professional you already know through your church and school who would be willing to host a child for an hour before the school year begins. Even if it's just a supervised tour, that can be enough to see school as a means to an end. Leverage your community to help your student see a path and plan accordingly.

What are you doing to get ready for the new school year? Tell us in our Ages & Stages groups! Click here to join.

No matter what you do, enjoy these last few summer days! 


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