Video Games for STEM Summer Learning

Video Games for STEM Summer Learning

I have been working hard planning my son’s summer and it’s a video game themed summer but I plan to sneak in math, computer science, art and reading. He’s 10-years-old and will be a rising 5th grader.

Why video gamed learning? My son is screen obsessed. It’s not unusual to find him in front of TWO not just ONE screens at the same time! He will watching a YouTube video while playing a video game, and sometimes they are not even related. When we tell him to stop, he will quite sweetly, “You should be glad I am multi-tasking mom!”

Now that you understand what I am up against, here’s the overview of my STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) Summer Curriculum with gaming as the theme:

  • MATH: Daily Word Problems for 5th Grade We have worked our way through this series since Kindergarten and we have the drill (ahem … bribery) down
  • COMPUTER SCIENCE: Minecraft with Java for one week of summer day camp and and introduction to programming in Python
  • ART: Drawing comics based on Injustice video game
  • READING: We’re going to work through a variety of genres but many of the books have a gaming theme
  • SCIENCE: We’ll be using some science experiment books and blogs to find some science experiments that are easy to execute and do not require a lot of additional supply purchases

Summer Math: Word Problem Workbook

I really love the Daily Word Problems book series that my kids have done every summer since kindergarten. Our elementary doesn’t focus on word problems, but I like how it combines literacy with math while also teaches logical reasoning. Each problem is a puzzle to be solved by taking words and turning them into number sentences.

My son actually likes doing math homework but still it will typically takes us until December to complete the workbook. To spurn him forward, I use a drawing game, a short term reward and a big prize to ensure completion.

We play The Shape Game for every correct math problem. It’s based on the the book by Anthony Browne. It’s pretty simple and fun. I draw a random shape and my son takes it and turns it into something recognizable.

The Shape Game for math homework

Here I draw a random shape in whatever space is left over from the math problem.

drawing game for math workbook

My son takes my shape and turns it into a snail.

The Daily Word Problem workbook is designed for an academic school year but it works beautifully as a summer workbook too. With 36 weeks of 5 problems each week, we aim for 3 weeks at a sitting because completing 15 problems earns you a small prize, typically an outing for ice cream.

Finally, I dangle a big prize for completing the book. This summer, it will likely be a large Lego set. What do you know? They have Lego Minecraft sets!

 

Summer Learning: Computer Programming in Java and Python

When my son’s screen addiction really got out of hand, I decided that if you can’t beat them, join them. I told my son he can have screen time if he learns how to make his own video games. I found a tutor for him and his friends and they happily learned Scratch and Java.

For the past two summer, my son and his friends spent a week at computer camp designing Mods in Minecraft in teams. It felt a little like an expensive week of gaming, but I told the other moms that we are laying the groundwork for teaching the boys to program.

My computer programmer friends at work tell me that Python is the language for gamers and that it’s actually easier to learn than Java so I’m going to be trying out Python using Teach Your Kids to Code: A Parent-Friendly Guide to Python Programming by Bryson Payne. I hope it’s very parent-friendly as I am not technical at all!

What I usually do with my son, is throw the book in a conspicious place in his room and wait a few days to see what happens. Sometimes nothing happens. Sometimes, he will find and devour the book. I am hoping the Python book will not require much adult intervention.

Summer Art: Drawing Superhero Comic Books

drawing comics for boys

The video game Injustice: Gods Among Us is a fighting game and not meant to be educational. He delves deep into the world of DC and Marvel comics and most interestingly, into a frenzy of comic book drawing wherein he pits superhero against superhero in epic battles.

I am thrilled to watch my son draw and redraw his comics with more and more detail. I simply provide him with drawing materials; he prefers a #9 lead automatic pencil, large sketchbook and soft eraser and he goes to town. Here’s Batman versus Spiderman:
Injustice and drawing comic books
Sometimes I am consulted about which superheroes to pit against with reasoning regarding who would win. My knowledge is limited in this arena so it hardly ever ends up in his work. I belive this is the first page to Nightwing vs Green Arrow.

drawing superhero comics for boys

 

Summer Reading: Video Game Themed Books

My son has very limited knowledge of the Bible; I quizzed him and it’s basically limited to just the Adam and Eve story so I am thrilled that The Unofficial Holy Bible for Minecrafters: A Children’s Guide to the Old and New Testament is filling in all those gaps! This is a graphic novel using Minecraft as the basis of all the Bible stories. It is a diabolically clever idea.

 

Liam O’Donnell’s second Minecraft chapter book, Nether Nightmare, is in beta, and my son read part of it, so we’ll be finishing it this summer.

My son’s contribution so far is this: “I think magma cubes split into 4 instead if two (chapter 2).”

Liam’s first book is Descent into Overworld which my son really enjoyed. I’m noticing an uptick in Minecraft-themed chapter books and my son will eagerly review any that come our way.

It’s not all Minecraft books, however. We’ve downloaded the recently released Rick Riordan ebook, The Crown of Ptolemy, which he can start reading right away.

 

But, we need to read other genres besides Action Adventure Fantasy. To this end, we’ll be exploring Historical Fiction which my son discovered this year from 4th grade read alouds that he enjoys.

 

Summer Science: Experiments That Are Easy to Set Up

I am lazy when it comes to science. My son and I will watch oodles of short science videos — I have a collection of our favorites here. We will do quick and easy off-the-cuff experiments that require very little planning and almost no additional materials outside of what we have in our house.

We’ll be using Crazy for Science with Camelo the Science Fellow by Camelo Piazza, James Buckley and illustrated by Chad Geran. And in choosing science experiments to do, my son can check off a non-fiction book for his summer reading!

We will also be pulling experiment ideas from What Do We Do All Day‘s summer science camp blog series and from Science Fun Pinterest board. The key to choosing will be: my son is interested, the set up is easy, and I only need to make one trip to get the materials.

Follow PragmaticMom’s board Science Fun on Pinterest.

So there you have it; my summer of video gaming learning that encompases science, math, computer programming, art and reading. Did I miss anything?

How about you? Please share your ideas for getting your kids learning this summer! Thanks! I’d appreciate the ideas!

Video Games for STEM Summer Learning

This post is running in conjunction with GreatSchools.org. All opinions are my own. GreatSchools is committed to getting the word out to parents about “summer slide” and encouraging the support of summer learning programs.


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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom

6 Comments

  1. Dee

    You are my hero, Mia! What a great summer! I wish I were home with Dylan to do a lot of these. I leave him things to do (when he doesn’t have camp) but without me there, they often don’t get done. That said, yesterday, his first full day off alone, he worked on his typing with the typing program I bought him 2 years ago. He used to HATE it and yesterday he decided to work on it all on his own!

    Dylan’s also doing a 1-week Robotics camp. I think he’ll really like that. And he’ll be continuing with our math tutor.

  2. I think it is a super-smart to use what they love to help them expand their knowledge. My kids also love screens and video games so we’ll be using some of your plan for our vacation as well. I’m also throwing in a video game family night (Super Mario Party) once a week, Spanish story time, and a craft once a week. Parents need to understand that videogames are not the enemy. They can be used as educational tools too. In most games, kids are learning strategy, problem solving skills, and they are reading, because these video games have a story line. I do not allow them to play super violent, graphic games though. Thanks for this post!
    Mariana Llanos recently posted…Mother’s BedMy Profile

  3. Your son sounds just like mine in terms of being crazy about Minecraft and using two screens at once! Thanks so much for the valuable advice!!
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