giraffeSummer vacation started three weeks ago. Let the summer slide begin! Or, use STEAM to keep the kids occupied and learning about biology, engineering, weather, erosion, math and art. Any vacation can be turned into a STEAM vacation. For instance, I took my kids on a safari this week. We saw over 200 different species of animals and slept in a “tent” on a platform. There wasn’t any Wi-Fi or cell phone service and we were disconnected from the world. At first my kids didn’t know what to do. They are teenagers and felt disorientated without their phones in their hands. I grabbed the kids, watercolor paper, paints, and found a place to draw some animals. We sat for hours and drew the giraffes and misc. antelopes. The kids started to relax, actually started conversations with each other while the paint streaked the paper.

As the sun began to set we played cards and laughed into the night. We drifted off to sleep listening to the animals roar, screech and make their noises as they talked to each other. We were very happy and content.

After a hearty breakfast around the campfire, we headed out in the safari jeeps. We saw several giraffes and one walked right up to our jeep and stuck its head in my face. Its tongue was dark grey and long as it licked my check. The kids roared with laughter and snapped several pictures with a “real camera” versus their cell phone. Our guide provided biological information about the giraffes and the different species at the preserve. The tour was 3 hours long and we traveled several miles viewing animals in their natural habitat.

After a long afternoon nap in the shade, we started drawing the animals we saw in the morning, which lead to discussions about the biology of African animals and the diversity between North America and Africa, including the natural ecology. STEAM is everywhere and since my two kids are in high school biology, it was a natural transition from drawing to labeling animals and the riparian environment in which they live. We could not include technology, however when we return to civilization we can look up and fill in the gaps between our knowledge and what we wanted to learn.

Why does STEAM have to end just because school is over for the summer? Take it with you wherever your summer vacation takes your family. Even a staycation can be filled with STEAM education without the kids even knowing they are learning.

There are some items you need to pack in your STEAM kit:

–       Paper

–       Paint

–       Paint brushes

–       Pencils

–       Crayons/markers

–       Audubon animal/plant books for reference

–       Pastels

Use a fabric grocery bag and toss it into the car and when the kids complain about being bored, pull the bag out an engage them in STEAM. Stayed tuned for next week, we visit our family cabin in the Sierra Mountains…

Deborah Gustlin