How to Keep Teens Loving Social Studies All Summer

How to Keep Teens Loving Social Studies All Summer

There may or may not be some pictures of me dressed up at a Civil War reenactment when I was in high school. Like full on dressed up with blouse, skirt, and bonnet. Ok, those pictures definitely exist, but I will never show them to you. Never.

The fact that multiple members of my extended family participated, tells you a lot about a) my family’s interests and b) how I spent my summers. I come from a family of history buffs and summers were spent scouring Civil War battlefields and any other historical sites near where we vacationed. Visiting historical sites is still the first thing I think to do when I go to a new place.

However, I know that “history” or Social Studies makes a lot of kids groan. Lots of kids (and adults) think of history as a dusty list of facts, usually about dead, white men. It’s nothing that applies to the modern world or is even interesting.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Lots of people think of history as a dusty list of facts, usually about dead, white men. Not true!” quote=”Lots of people think of history as a dusty list of facts, usually about dead, white men. Not true!”]

So.not.true. History is made up of LOTS of stories about people very different and very similar to us. Once my students found a topic or person that intrigued them, they were all in. Suddenly, these stories about dead people (and not just about white men!) were interesting and applicable to their own lives.

The key to getting and keeping your child engaged is to hook them with something they already find interesting. It could be a subject, time period, person, or group. But whatever it is, nurture that interest!

So, here are some options for keeping your teens engaged in Social Studies all summer long! And don’t worry, I’ve got vacation and staycation options.

summer slide activities teen

While you’re here, grab my Summer Slide Activites Reference Guide that includes activities for more than just Social Studies!

How to Keep Teens Loving Social Studies All Summer

Visit a historic location

If you have the money and time, pick a cool historical location and nerd it up. Hit up Ellis Island in New York City, the monuments in Washington, DC or Alcatraz in San Francisco!  There are so many amazing options, you can customize it to your family’s interests. Want to include some hiking? Head to a national park! Remember, all 4th graders get in free to national parks!

Staying at home? Play tourist and check out the local landmarks. My husband lived in DC for 15 years and never visited the Washington Monument. WHAT?!? We often only visit these places when family or friends come to town, but it’s a fun (and informational) way to find out more about your city or town. And some cheesy selfies never hurt 🙂

Visit a museum

This seems obvious, no? However, visiting a local museum is a great way to learn about a new place and its culture. While the big museums are always a staple, venture to the smaller ones. You tend to get different perspectives and learn about smaller communities. This lady loves a good house museum!

If you’re looking for information on a particular population (African Americans, farmers, suffragettes) or time period, just ask your buddy Google. “Museum + area of interest”

Take a tour

In addition to museums, tours are a fun way to learn about a community. Do it any way you want – walking, bike, or my favorite, food tours tell you so much about a place, its history, and its culture.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Pro tip – keep up with the tour guide so you can ask questions.” quote=”Pro tip – keep up with the tour guide so you can ask questions.”]

Watch a historical movie

Find a topic that interests your teen and pick a related historical movie. Again, Google will probably come to the rescue. Just search “movie about topic” and you’re sure to find something you can stream right away. This list might help as well 🙂

However, don’t just watch the movie. Have a short discussion before and after the flick to stretch that brain! Some questions to discuss:

  • What did you learn that you didn’t know before?
  • Did the movie change your perspective at all? Why or why not?
  • How accurately do you think the movie portrayed the person/ event?
  • What questions do you still have?
  • Would you recommend this movie to a friend? Why or why not?

Listen to a podcast (or two)

Photo by Malte Wingen on Unsplash

Have a road trip coming up? Download some podcasts to listen to! There are SO many Social Studies related podcasts to listen to. I’m sure you can find some that will interest multiple members of the family.

Just like the movie option above, don’t just listen to the podcast. Pose some questions to extend the learning and thought process!

  • What did you learn that you didn’t know before?
  • Why do you think the host(s) decided to discuss this topic?
  • What was the most interesting point the podcast made?
  • What would you like to learn more about?  

Share family history

Getting together with family? Get older family members to share stories about their ancestors or their own lives. Now that my grandparents are both gone, I have so many questions that pop up and I can’t ask them! And if you can, record those stories for posterity.

If your teen seems interested in genealogy, start with your own family’s. You could even take a DNA test and see what you find. (I recently got mine back and there were some . . . surprises.)

Stay Current

Pick a topic or big story to follow for the summer. Talk about how to find accurate sources and then set a day and time to discuss each week. If you’ve picked the right topic, you’ll be talking more than just weekly!

Hopefully, this post gave you some ideas to get started with your teen. Clearly, I don’t expect you to sweat it out at a Civil War reenactment, but hopefully, you and your teen will find a topic to think about (and bond over) this summer!

summer slide activities teen

What is your favorite way to learn outside of school? Let me know in the comments below! 

Related Posts: My Favorite Podcasts for Social Studies Nerds, 50+ Fun Summer Activities for Teens & Tweens, Summer Slide Activities for Teens, Talking with Teens about Charlottesville

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