Fashion fun, coding skills, and exploring how tech in the home continues to evolve will keep kids' brains happily soaking up the knowledge.
Just because classes have been dismissed for the summer doesn’t mean learning has to come to a screeching halt. But don’t worry — there’s no shortage of fun ways to keep kids engaged this summer (in between play dates, of course), and computer science education (or CS for short) is a great place to start. In fact, the following five activities are so interesting and enjoyable that your kids are likely to forget they’re continuing their education throughout the summer months.
- Activities at tech museums
At museums like Living Computers: Museum + Labs in SoDo, summer activities are both affordable and appealing to kids.
The TECHBOUND Fashion Show marks Living Computers’ first foray into fashion. Although fashion and STEM may seem like an unlikely pairing, Living Computers partnering with Outside Comics & Geek Boutique to create a runway show that will thrill your kids — especially if they’re clamoring for wearable tech this summer. The fashion show will feature premier designers, cosplay, and a pop-up boutique of items you can purchase right off the runway. Who needs New York Fashion Week when you’ve got the TECHBOUND Fashion Show?
- TECHBOUND Fashion Show: Sat., July 7 at Living Computers | 6-9 p.m. | $20 (members $15)
Women are woefully underrepresented in STEM fields. According to a recent study, in the U.S., just 18 percent of computer-science college degrees go to women. By getting girls engaged in STEM at an early age, we’ve got a fighting chance to even the playing field. That’s why it’s so important that ChickTech and Living Computers have launched a free summer pilot program for female-identifying students in grades K through 8. The workshop series provides hands-on experiences with technology in an environment that encourages girls to learn, create and do. With two workshops every month — one each for elementary and middle school girls — the program also includes free admission to the museum.
- ChickTech K8 Every third Saturday at Living Computers | June-Sept. | 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. | Free
- Coding programs
Coding is where the magic happens — it’s responsible for everything we use that’s tech related, from internet browsers to Facebook to all our favorite go-to apps on smartphones. Many adults are clamoring to learn how to code, but there’s no reason kids shouldn’t have the opportunity to gain these incredibly useful skills.
Microsoft’s MakeCode offers myriad activities and projects that can be done from your home computer. These activities are available for all different skill levels and come with in-depth tutorials — so as your child advances throughout the summer, they can move forward with more difficult activities at their own pace.
Another great option is Scratch, a free creative-learning community created by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. Scratch has fun activities such as programming your own interactive stories, games, and animations — and thanks to the community aspect of the site, kids will have the chance to share their creations with others in the community and ask questions if they get stuck anywhere.
- Talking about safe internet use
Online communities give kids amazing opportunities to share their work with other like-minded people all over the world — and many at-home learning opportunities have an online component. Plus, a recent Pew Research study on social media use found that teens are heavy users of apps like Snapchat and Instagram and nearly 45 percent say they are online “almost constantly.”
It’s the new normal for kids to spend a great deal of time online, whether it’s for fun or educational opportunities, and that’s why it’s never too early to talk with your kids about internet safety. From using tools like parental controls to being a good digital role model, there are plenty of ways you can incorporate internet safety and education into your one-on-one time. If you’re not sure where to start or are looking for some pointers, visit The National PTA Digital Safety Guide, Commonsense Media, and the Family Online Safety Institute.
- Exploring Moore’s Law
A ground-breaking prediction for computing technology, Moore’s Law states that computing power tends to double about every two years. Formed in 1965 when Gordon Moore observed that microchips would continue to shrink at a higher and higher rate over time, Moore’s Law is one of the easiest principles to teach your kids at home using accessible, everyday examples. It’s also a great excuse to round up all your old tech for e-recycling.
Challenge yourself and your kids to search the house for unused, broken, or aging technology — from answering machines and printers to CD players and TVs. Then, line up them like items in order from oldest to newest and start observing how technology has changed through the decades. Can you spot the trend across the objects? Hint: As time passes, increasingly smaller machines work increasingly faster than the ones that came before them. Finish up by taking all your electronic waste to a nearby e-recycling center.
- Smart home automation
Whether controlling lights, climate, entertainment systems or appliances, using smart home devices can be a great way to show kids the ins and outs of the “internet of things.” An excellent activity for teenagers to try at home this summer, setting up smart home devices teaches kids about networks and programming. Start by having a conversation about what tasks or chores your family would like to make simpler. Then, let your teen do research online to determine what smart products (Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc.) or programs (IFTTT, Home Assistant, etc.) would work best for your home. Not only is this a great STEM learning experience, but your teen will love to see the results of their hard work at home every day.
Living Computers: Museum + Labs provides hands-on experiences with computer technology from the 1960s to the present. From vintage systems and mainframes to the latest robotics and digital tools — discover technology at your fingertips. Come in. Geek out.