Experiential learning resources for the innovative educator
Hey, there! Happy May, a great time for summer skill-building activities for teens!
For many of us, summer break is almost here, which has some of us parents of teenagers scrambling for ideas to fill the time in a fun a productive way. That’s where this blog post comes in! Keep reading for 10 awesome summer skill-building activities for teens.
Yes, we want our kids to take a well needed break, but summers can get long, and the last thing any of us want is a gaggle of teens sitting in a dark, cold basement playing video games all day.
As an experiential high school educator, I have what feels like a lifetime of experience working with teens on building content knowledge, skills, and a passion for learning through personalized, active, and real-world learning activities.
When I send my high schoolers away for the summer, I send their parents a portfolio of learning activities and resources that students can tap into over the course of the summer if they wish.
These summer skill-building activities are designed to engage teens in self-directed learning experiences. You as the parent or teacher are more or less hands-off.
And the best part? These summer skill-building activities are fun for teens.
Let’s dive in.
10 Summer Skill-Building Activities for Teens
Road Trip on a Budget
Planning a road trip on a budget is a great skill-building activity for teens to do over the summer. High schoolers work on budgeting, planning, coordinating, mapping, and more.
The resource included below can be used to plan a hypothetical trip, but summer is also a great time to take an actual road trip! Challenge your teen to plan this year’s summer road trip!
I have all of my high schoolers do a senior project. It is a requirement to graduate.
However, teenagers that don’t have this requirement can easily tackle this incredible skill-building activity independently over the summer. This is especially pertinent to juniors entering their senior year in the fall.
The senior project asks students to do a career exploration project, document skill-building activities, design and execute a career-related community action project, and add all of these real-world experiences to a career portfolio.
The senior project bundle below includes templates and guides for EACH of these experiences. Students should be able to execute a senior project entirely on their own (with you there for a little guidance).
Start a Business
This summer skill-building activity for teens is my all-time favorite, and theirs as well. They not only get to build some pretty incredible skills, including the ability to develop and launch a business, but they get to make a little extra summer cash in the process!
I have had students develop and run summer camps, computer maintenance businesses, take-and-bake pie shops, and photography companies, just to name a few. My own children, who are not teens at all, run their own businesses every year as well.
This high school entrepreneurship resource walks teens through the process of developing and launching a business step-by-step.
Service-learning is an awesome skill-building activity for teens. Service-learning by nature helps students build critical thinking, organization, planning, and problem-solving skills. But the best part about service-learning is that it helps students build character through the act of giving.
Using this service-learning tool kit, your teens will identify needs in the community and design a course of action to meet that need.
Start a Club
I send my kids with a few resume-builder options on their way out for the summer, one of which includes the guiding tools to start a club. This looks awesome on a resume!
Your teen could organize a neighborhood or friend book, environmental, baking, skateboarding, hiking, or basketball club among many others. Those are just some examples of what my students have done to build their resumes over the summer. Find the club resource and more resume builders here!
Plan a Dinner Party on a Budget
This is another favorite skill-building activity for teens. I have my students plan dinner parties on a budget during the long winter holiday season, but your teens could do this on their own during the summer.
Teens can build skills such as budgeting and planning by planning a hypothetical dinner party. But I would recommend that your teen actually host this party!
There are so many opportunities for this including Memorial Day, Fourth of July, National Night Out, and Labor Day, and these are just U.S. holidays. Imagine the possibilities!
They could even just host a dinner party for fun. Switching the dinner party from hypothetical to a reality adds other opportunities for skill-building such as managing time and tasks and cooking!
Host a Fundraiser
I save fundraiser projects for the end of the school year because around here testing is over, the weather is nice, and I like to end the year on a high note. Fundraisers are a great way to do that. Because it’s so nice out, my students usually choose to do a car wash or yard sale.
Again, summer is a great time for this skill-building activity. Teens identify a community issue that is important to them and raise money for it. Fundraising is a great experience to add to a resume, it is an awesome skill-builder, and it builds character. Fundraisers are also fun.
Community Action Project
Community action projects are also great summer skill-building activities for teens. If you’re not familiar with the phrase, a community action project is one in which teens choose a community problem or issue that is important to them, plan a course of action to solve the problem, and take action.
This is GREAT to put on a resume. Community action projects also help students build skills in problem-solving, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication and more.
Community action projects also take time, which there is a lot of in the summer, so students can pace themselves and really focus their energy on this issue that means something to them.
Try out my community action project tool kit for step-by-step templates.
Student-Led Project-Based Learning
I love student-led project-based learning as a skill-building activity, so much in fact, that I base my high school curriculum on it. PBL is the entire curriculum.
Your teen can take this PBL starter kit and use it as a step-by-step guide for designing and leading their own project-based learning experiences this summer.
If you’re unfamiliar with student-led project-based learning, it is the deep exploration of a topic of interest. Let's go over some PBL components:
Teens explore a topic or problem of interest, collaborate with community experts, create innovative final products, and share their product, new skills, and knowledge with a relevant and public audience.
Here is an example:
Last summer, one of my students who is interested in cooking wanted to learn how to make an entire meal from scratch.
She learned how to make homemade pasta, mozzarella cheese, her own tomato sauce, and more. She learned the science behind each recipe. This was the sustained inquiry piece of the experience.
She visited an organic dairy farm, interviewed the farmer, and learned about the role that sustainable farming practices plays in the future of certain ingredients such as milk for the student’s mozzarella cheese.
She then organized a neighborhood spaghetti dinner. She cooked pasta for the entire block from scratch, used homemade mozzarella cheese as the main ingredient in her caprese salad, made ricotta cheese from scratch and homemade shells for cannolis and then served her friends and family.
This PBL experience was based on this student’s interests and deep and sustained inquiry, experimentation, a community expert (dairy farmer), an innovative final product (meal from scratch), and an authentic presentation (serving the dinner to her neighbors).
If you are a homeschool parent or teacher, I highly recommend student-led PBL for kids of all ages. Reach out anytime with questions.
In the meantime, check out my free PBL mini-course to get inspired.
Summer Educational Travel
The most powerful skill-building experience on this list, if you’re able to swing it, is educational travel, and not just traveling this summer, but having your teen plan the travel experience.
As the coordinator for our school educational travel program, I have seen the powerful benefits of traveling for kids, and because my students are project-based learners, they often plan our school trips from a PBL approach. My own children, who are fairly young, also play a role in planning our family summer trips.
Check out my educational travel resources for helpful tools and guides.
Summer skill-building activities for teens don’t have to be a chore or a bore. These particular summer activities for teens were specifically designed to be fun, engaging, and meaningful.
Enjoy your summer packed with fun and productivity!
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To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.