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The Science of Summer: Help Students Learn the Science Behind Their Favorite Summer Activities

By Dawn Marcotte

Do you ever wonder why some bats hit baseballs farther or why some boats are faster than others? This summer camp, with activities designed around the science of summer, may appeal to students with these questions and who enjoy summer activities.


summerlearning Do you know why some bats hit baseballs farther or how changing the shape of a canoe can help you win the race? A science summer camp with activities designed around the science of summer may appeal to students who enjoy the outdoors, but are ready to learn more about the science behind their favorite activities. These activities can be tailored to the ages of the students.

Sports Activities

Common summer sports such as baseball, soccer or even lacrosse involve moving a ball from one place to another. Students can learn about the physics of force and motion using their favorite sport. In the first experiment students will determine how the weight and speed of a bat affect the distance the ball is hit. In the second experiment a variety of balls will be used to determine the effect of follow through on how far the balls go.

Baseball Activity

Students of any age can swing a bat at a baseball and some students may be proficient enough to regularly hit the ball into the outfield. Have each student hit a ball from a t-ball stand, to eliminate the variable of the speed of a thrown object. Tell students to swing as hard as they can and measure the distance of each hit. Repeat the instructions using a variety of bat weights and measure as before. Students should tally the information and determine the optimal weight of bat for the longest hit.

The Science of Follow Through

Many athletes are told when first learning their sport to ‘follow through’. This experiment will allow students to discover why this instruction impacts distance and accuracy of the ball. Divide students into groups and give each group a baseball to throw, a tennis ball to hit with a tennis racket, and a soccer ball to kick. Each group should throw, hit or kick each item 6 times toward a specific target so that distance and accuracy can be measured. Students should follow through for the first three trials. Students should stop their natural motion when they touch the ball for the next three times so there is no follow through. Measure how far each ball goes and how close it comes to the target.

Water Activity

Many people enjoy water activities during the warm months of summer. Swimming, diving, sailing and fishing are only a few activities. Students can learn about buoyancy and aerodynamics in building a model boat to race.

Divide students into small groups and provide them with milk cartons, plastic pop bottles, duct tape, rubber bands and a small container of sand that weighs 2 pounds. Each group must build a ‘boat’ that will hold the container of sand, remain floating and be self-propelled. The rubber band should be used to power the ‘propeller’ of the boat. Once the boats are constructed the students can race them in a children’s plastic pool. This activity can be changed for the skill level of the participants. Older students can build boats large enough for a person to sit in and use a paddle to race. Larger boats will take longer to construct and will require more materials. Students will need to experiment with the shape of the boat, the materials used to reduce drag in the water and balance of the boat so the container of sand doesn't slide around.

Environmental Activities

Spring and summer are ideal times for junior biologists and zoologists to make observational studies in the field. Bird tagging, insect activities and stargazing can be used to expand their knowledge in these fields.

Invite a local birding group to set up stations for bird tagging. Even young students can help to remove the birds from the special netting used for capture. Older students can learn how to take measurements, and record them properly for study. Insect enthusiasts can do field research on a fallen tree. If no tree is available, place a large piece of carpet loosely on the ground several days or a week before the activity. Move the carpet and observe what has taken up residence underneath. If the camp runs late enough allow students to study constellations. Provide photos of the night sky with constellations outlined and encourage the students to find those groups of stars.

Science camp can be a fun and exciting learning experience!