Ten Creative Ways Students Can Have a Better Summer Break

School breaks are an exciting time for students. With (usually) no homework and lots of free time, they’re pretty much the ultimate kid fantasy. The origin of breaks in the United States are rooted in the days of agriculture when students would take summer off to work at their family farms. As technology and culture changed, this shifted from farming needs to psychological needs: breaks are healthy.

The problem is that summer breaks can cause mental atrophy due to the lack of stimulation. Fatih Kalkinc, a Sifa University psychology professor, puts it like this: “Take a minute to imagine that you don’t start your car for four months. The car battery dies. Not studying for four months is the same, and it is in fact a loss.” In this article, we’ll take a look at activities that students can do during their extended summer and winter breaks in order to maximize their mental capacity and stay on top of the game.


Ten Ways to Keep Those Neurons Firing

1. Wake up early

One common mistake that students make is sleeping in far too late during the summer. Waking up early has two benefits. First, students can stay productive and get more done throughout the day. Second, on the opposite side of the same coin, early rising students are also able to participate in activities that are stimulating and fun. Waking up early decreases the chance of wasting the whole summer away doing nothing interesting or productive, both of which are very important.

2. Read

Reading exercises the brain by stretching a student’s imagination, which leads ultimately to greater creativity and empathy for a wider range of people who may lay outside a student’s everyday experiences. In addition, reading is a great way for students to learn new vocabulary and challenge themselves mentally, especially when they regularly change up their reading materials, Before summer lets out, have your students write down the genre they’re usually most drawn to. Then add at least one book to their reading list that’s not in that area. If a student normally reads fiction, opt for non-fiction. If a student normally read biographies, change to science fiction. Doing so will help open up your students’ minds and gives them a more well-rounded view of the world. That said, when working with a reluctant reader, the most important thing is to make sure they’re reading at all, so leave some wiggle room for resistance.

3. Community Service

Spending time in the community volunteering is a great way to feel more connected to the world, to meet friends, and to build the habit of doing good. Whether students work at the soup kitchen or help clean up the local streets with the Adopt-A-Street program, they will see a different side of life.

4. Build Your Portfolio

In art school, portfolios are used to show designs and work that students have done in the past in order to showcase their skills. For older high school studentshis idea of a portfolio can be adapted into different fields depending on the student’s potential career path (if they know it already). For example, if your student wants to work in marketing, then doing self-designed projects in marketing or working for a local business can teach them very important skills. Documenting this experience is a great way to show universities and future employers previous work and display proactiveness, which is a highly valuable attribute.

5. Exercise

Exercise is something that should be done consistently throughout a student’s life, but many students ignore this aspect because they do not have enough time. During vacations and school breaks, people tend to lay back and let the laziness set in. This is not recommended.  Exercise has so many benefits beyond just a stronger body. Exercise improves your chances of living longer, protects you from heart disease, protects you from certain cancers, improves sleep, among a slew of other benefits. The upside is very high and 3-5 hours per week is not much to reap those benefits. Play is such an important part of the human experience. While local gym classes and weights are great, other forms of exercise such as playing basketball, football, or tag are fun and healthy at the same time. It is up to the students’ imagination!

6. Conduct Fun Experiments and Blog About Them

Experiments, such as social experiments or self-improvement experiments, are entertaining and give students the opportunity to learn new skills while having fun. For example, students can conduct a social experiment by smiling at five people per day. This is a fun way to study the reactions of people and learn more about oneself as well. For more information and ideas, A.J. Jacobs is an author that conducts very interesting self-experiments that might be fun for your students to try on their own.

7. Travel

Traveling is a great way to open students’ eyes to the world around them. A good practice is visiting college campuses in order to connect names with actual images. This helps students visualize their goals and internalize their dreams. Taking vacations themed around visiting college campuses can be fun and educational at the same time.

8. Get a Job

While working may not necessarily be fun, it teaches students the value of time and money, as well as work ethic and work culture. One important thing to remember for students is that while jobs are about money, their first few jobs will probably not be their dream jobs. This is why it is key to focus more on learning skills and less on the actual paycheck. Although both are important, the skills that students learn will take them far into their future careers.

9. Start a Business

This is an experience about learning. Starting a small business, whether it is selling lemonade or mowing lawns, teaches skills that are not necessarily taught inside every classroom. Entrepreneurship is becoming more and more important in society today and starting a business is a fun way to learn.  Here are a few great ideas from the Huffington Post.

10. Get to know a career

If students do not know what they want to be yet, they can take this time to research and try new things to figure out what they like. If students know what their career path is, it is important to take this time to learn more about that field. Many businesses are willing to give educational tours, so students can ask local businesses or companies if they would allow them to come in and watch the process or take a tour of the company so they can see where they are headed. This is great to do in conjunction with the portfolio idea, which will help your students document their career adventure.

Don’t Forget to Build in Fun Time

While it is important to stay focused, it is also important to have fun during school breaks. The threat of mental atrophy is real, but the threat of overexertion can cause students to burnout as well. There should be plenty of time for rest and idle time with productive periods sprinkled in daily in order to keep the brain sharp. Here are a few exercises you can suggest to students and parents as fun ways to fill the time over the break.

  • Have your students do an activity that isn’t related to school, but expands their knowledge. This can go on their college college admission applications.
  • Travel
  • Learn one new fun skill (like basketball, drawing, etc.) and get really good at it. This builds self-confidence. Improving at a skill can significantly boost confidence and motivate students to apply it to other activities.
  • Learn a useful skill for when students leave to college, such as cooking or doing laundry.
  • Train in a sport if your students do sports.
  • If your students get jobs, make sure they understand that it is about learning skills, not about the money. Although both are important, the skills that they learn will be applicable to future jobs.
  • Take free classes online or at the local community college
  • Learn how to meditate
  • Conduct experiments and blog about them
  • Get to know their career choices. If they don’t know what their career path is, they can take this time to research and try new things to see if they like them. If students know what their career path is, it is helpful to take this time to ask local businesses or companies for internships. Or take a tour of the company so they can see where they’re headed. This also helps because if they don’t like the work, because they can now decide on another path.
  • Get well rested and prepare mentally
  • Start a business – mow lawns, deliver newspapers, sell something. Here are some more ideas.
  • Join a competition
  • Internship
  • Test Prep
  • Explore colleges – research what college is best for their chosen majors
  • Create a portfolio. Like in art, there is a collection of work. If students create a portfolio of projects they have worked on and explain what they are, it is very compelling to jobs and colleges. Portfolios should be updated yearly at a minimum.