5 Places to Celebrate Summer Learning

Extending Learning to Your Community

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Just because school is out (or nearly out!) doesn’t mean learning has to stop. Summer presents some really unique opportunities to engage in flexible, hands-on, creative, and nontraditional learning experiences. It’s the perfect time to take advantage of educational environments outside the classroom that students might not have time to visit during the school year. It’s also important to consider how children are staying intellectually and creatively active during the summer — which doesn’t necessarily mean workbooks or flashcards. It could be a matter of continually engaging in critical thinking, which can occur in a variety of settings. Some truly exciting moments of learning and self-discovery can take place in community-based organizations outside of school walls. To kick-start your child’s summer vacation, take a look at a few of our favorite places to celebrate summer learning:

Children’s Museums

Almost every major city has a children’s museum. If you’ve never been to one before, summer is the perfect time to start — unlike “adult” museums, children’s museums are interactive and hands-on. Like playgrounds, they invite children to engage in a flexible, multi-sensory way. But, unlike playgrounds, they’re specifically designed to convey information, prompt questions, and practice important developmental and educational skills. For more information about children’s museums, visit the Association of Children’s Museums or check out this list of the 15 Best Children’s Museums in the U.S. Of course, these experiences are intended for children of a certain age — so if you have an older learner, consider taking them to a local “adult” museum — for ideas, scroll through this list of the highest rated museum in every state.

Arboretums and Gardens

Even small towns often have a beautiful arboretum or garden (often admission-free) that can function as an excellent nontraditional learning environment. Check to see if your local spot has any specific summer events for children, or just pay a family visit. These are also great spaces for children to learn and explore on family vacations. Browse this list of the best botanical gardens in the U.S. to see if there’s a great one near you or your vacation destination.


This one is a given — but don’t underestimate the power of a visit to the library! Libraries can be fantastic alternative learning environments, especially in the summer. For the readers who need a lack of pressure and structure to enjoy a book, summer is the perfect time to pick out their own story and read it at their own pace. For the reader who flourishes in competition, most libraries have a summer reading program that prompts students to track their reading for fun prizes. Also keep an eye out for special summer events and giveaways.


Like museums, theaters also come in children’s editions. Theater is an excellent space for children to observe, absorb, gather insights into new perspectives, and become comfortably familiar with art. Children’s theaters present stories appropriate for young audiences, and often feature a child-filled cast. A trip to the theater also offers an alternative place to practice sitting, listening, and considering — without the traditional classroom/teacher structure. To find a children’s theater in your area, check out this list of 20 great children’s theaters in the U.S., or this list of 12 children’s theaters to take your kids.

Your Own Backyard

You don’t have to leave your home to provide your children with rich summer learning experiences. There are plenty of opportunities to learn, explore, and grow right at home — with a little creativity and an open mind. For inspiration to keep your kids learning all summer, see our Summer Literacy and Science Experiments Pinterest boards. Then, browse our summer literacy activity blogs, listed by age level:

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