Let wonder take the lead

Let wonder take the lead

By: Mrs. Morgan Chapman, Elementary Teacher-Librarian 

Many parents are wondering how they can help their kids continue learning over the summer months. We may picture summer learning as something similar to some of our school experiences-  worksheets, textbooks, memorization and a lot of reading books we didn’t really enjoy. 

The good news is that there are many ways to enjoy the summer months and keep learning! Children learn so much through play, wonder and creativity. Summer is a great time to lean into the unstructured days and let wonder take the lead. Here are 5 ideas to keep your child learning in many different ways this summer.

1. Get into nature

One of the first things we were excited to do at the end of the school year was pack away the computers from the playroom where we had done much of our remote learning. All of a sudden we had long summer days stretching out before us, and a lot more time to play, ride bikes, drive to the mountains or even just take a leisurely walk with our dog into Fish Creek Park. 

Time in nature is such a grounding experience for our nervous systems (something we all needed) and a perfect place to spark wonder about trees, plants, weather, insects, wildlife and birds. 

Try taking a sketchbook and a few pencils on your next hike and find something to draw. Record any questions your child might have to research later, or take pictures of wildflowers or birds you would like to identify. Bring a magnifying glass to really look at the intricate lines in a leaf. 

My aunt gave me great advice when my children were younger about hiking and exploring nature with kids. Go at their pace. Let them stop to marvel at the wildflowers or try a side trail. Have a full sensory experience - what do you see, hear, feel, smell, taste?  You may also find a little more wonder and awe in your nature time. 

If you are looking for a great guide to kid friendly hikes, camping and more in the Calgary Area, you will love Tanya Koob’s blog: http://www.rockiesfamilyadventures.com/. We have many of her recommended hikes on our summer bucket list! 


One of the highlights of my job as teacher-librarian is helping to nurture students’ wonders and connecting students with the just-right resources they need to do their own research. When they come to the library with a wonder, I help them find books, databases or experts that can help them learn more. 

Maybe your child doesn’t have any pressing questions to research right now, but I can guarantee they will after checking out some of these spaces on the internet to cultivate curiosity. These are also guaranteed to create many “did you know….” moments at the dinner table. Here are a few to note:

Brains On! Podcast -https://www.brainson.org/ While you drive out to that hike, why not listen to a great podcast? This is our absolute favourite science podcast. It’s entertaining with a whole cast of characters, co-hosted by a child each week, and is perfect for kids aged 5+. My kids especially love trying to guess the Mystery Sound in each episode! Download wherever you get podcasts!

Wonderopolis -https://wonderopolis.org/- This is the perfect homepage for your family computer, a new wonder of the day each day from a  child and answered by an expert!

Science Bob -https://sciencebob.com/- Summer is a great time to do science experiments outside! This website is fantastic with many ideas for all ages!

The Kids Should See This -https://thekidshouldseethis.com/ - If you have ever wished, like me, that there were higher quality videos on YouTube for kids, you are going to LOVE this website. Curated videos from a mom and her children in many categories, from animals, to music to Rube Goldberg machines. We have found some truly fascinating videos for all ages on this site!  

3. Create 

Summer is the perfect time to let our children’s creativity shine. Creating forts in the backyard, writing spooky stories to share at a campfire, learning how to draw new characters, writing out a scavenger hunt for a friend, or writing their own poetry. Follow your child’s lead and see what they would like to create! Here are a few of our favourites places on the web to inspire more creativity in writing & art.  

We have been loving all the printable prompts from author and illustrator Jarrett Lerner. My kids especially enjoy his “finish this comic” pages!https://jarrettlerner.com/activities/#jp-carousel-4688

There are so many opportunities to connect with authors and illustrators, and we have also loved creating art and crafts with illustrator Christian Robinsonhttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzW_SBxroAj5hclD4q5KwZw/videos

Looking for some creative writing prompts? Write using prompts or printables from Read Write Thinkhttp://www.readwritethink.org/parent-afterschool-resources/


4. Read 

Reading isn’t always  what we picture - sitting in a cozy chair for hours with a long chapter book. 

Reading is non-fiction, graphic novels, cookbooks, magazines, listening to audiobooks or a parent reading to you. There are so many ways to enjoy stories and information and summer is a great time to follow your child’s interests and also push them a little out of their comfort zone.

Both of my children really enjoy reading graphic novels, so we have been expanding beyond their old favourites by exploring many different genres within the format of graphic novels. We have read science fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, humour, biography and classics in graphic novel format. 

If you need recommendations, ask your local public librarian. Mention what books your child enjoyed reading in the past, or what subjects they are curious about. There are so many amazing books out there for kids right now, and we are so lucky to have free access to all of these titles with our library card. 

We have been searching the Calgary Public Library online catalogue and taking advantage of their holds service to find books in series we love, and doing curbside pickup at our local branch. 

Find many great reading lists and access the library catalogue here: https://calgarylibrary.ca/read-learn-and-explore/in-library/kids/

To encourage reading at all times of day, not just bedtime, we tend to borrow a lot of books and then keep them in many spots around the house so they can be picked up at any time. 

We have also loved biking around and finding Little Free Libraries in our community and donating books of our own and finding a few gems too! Check out the Little Free Library maps here: https://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap/


5. Connect

Being isolated from friends, family and colleagues over the last months has been hard. We have been enjoying re-connecting through socially distanced hikes, bike rides, and writing letters.

Writing letters can be a particularly great way to motivate young writers. In addition to your letter, try including something fun - writing out a recipe, share a joke from a joke book from the library, or instructions on how to do an experiment. 

Without remote schooling, we may find we have more time for family activities like board games or card games, a great way to practice math skills in an enjoyable way. 

Notice how social connection and play helps us all feel more grounded. Talk about that with your kids – what ideas do they have to stay more connected – they may surprise you with their creativity!

One more resource I have been recommending to parents to inform choices in movies, books, apps, video games and more is https://www.commonsensemedia.org/. Common Sense Media is a great website, a non-profit organization that provides educator-vetted esources for parents. There is also an app for quick searches. If you are looking specifically for their academic recommendations, they have a great website dedicated to remote learning with many great recommendations. https://wideopenschool.org/programs/family/prek-5/

Click here to watch Mrs. Chapman's segment with CTV Morning Live Calgary