Science Activities for Teens: 12 Summer Vacation Ideas


Whether you have a science-mad kid, or you simply want to add some STEM activities into your summer vacation there are many options to make it fun for teens, and help you do it without science taking over your vacation (unless you want it to!) Opportunities to explore science are all around us. With a little intentionality and planning, your family will enjoy these 12 summer vacation ideas for science activities for teens.

Science Activities for Teens: 12 Summer Vacation Ideas

This article contains referral links to homeschool science resources we think you’ll love.

Science Activities for Outdoor Family Fun

A family hike can open up the various fields of environmental science and biology. It is also a great opportunity to add to your nature journal with a nature scavenger hunt. This is even better if you are on vacation in a new region. Your kids and teens will be exposed to plants and animals which might be new to them. Your teens can do a little research about what is around in that region or look out for general field guides or those specific to the region of your summer vacation.

Scavenger hunts are a great way to help young children walk further and forget about tired legs. Your little scientist will enjoy looking for the next great thing on the trail. Let your teens use their cell phones with an app to help identify new species. For very young children, a scavenger hunt can be as simple as looking for different colors in nature.

Earth Science Activities for Teens

You can also use your hike as a time to explore the local geology of the region. Collect interesting rocks to take home with you. A rock book can help you identify if they are igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic. A magnifying glass is not only good for the biological world, but it is also great for studying rocks up close. Many older children enjoy building rock collections and researching areas with interesting geology or even the opportunity to find fossils

Explore earth science by visiting volcanic regions or places prone to earthquakes. Look for how the geology has shaped the landscape, or how people live in areas that could be dangerous.

Visit a National Park this summer. Kids of all ages will find new wonders to delight them. Do a little research before you go to discover what makes the park special, what features to look out for, and see if your trip coincides with any ranger talks, science activities, or events that might enhance your trip.

Camping Trip Science Activities for Teens

There is something magical about camping out in wild places that creates powerful memories for kids and teens. This is a perfect opportunity to learn about astronomy and go stargazing. August sees one of the best meteor showers of the year: the Perseid Shower is in mid-August. Just as we nature journal with our children, start a stargazing journal.

Backyard Science Activities for Teens

Take messy experiments outside! Here’s a fun one. Use hydrogen peroxide, yeast, and dish soap to do a big elephant’s toothpaste experiment. This simple experiment shows how chemical reactions can be sped up using a catalyst (the yeast). This is also an example of an exothermic reaction. Exothermic reactions release heat. Even feeling the temperature of the container with the hydrogen peroxide in it before the experiment, and the soapy foam makes this clear. Always remember safety goggles!

Make a solar oven. This cool experiment shows how to trap the heat from the sun to cook food. All you need is an old pizza box, black construction paper, aluminum foil, plastic food wrap, scissors, a ruler, and tape. The pizza oven can reach temperatures of 200 °F on a hot day.

After the heat of the solar oven, make homemade ice cream in a plastic bag! Using heavy cream, ice cubes, and salt, you can make your own homemade ice cream. This experiment explores the melting point of water and how salt lowers it. Not only is this a cool science experiment, but it is pretty tasty too!

There are so many simple science experiments to do in your backyard like making a bottle rocket to explore Newton’s Laws of Motion; or building a volcano and using baking soda and vinegar to make it ‘erupt’.

British writer and naturalist Beatrix Potter cataloged the fungi species near her home as a young woman; this led to the discovery that Lichen is two species in a symbiotic relationship. Teens could likewise choose to catalog the nature around their home. Start a botany project by documenting the species of trees, birds, or, like Beatrix Potter, fungi. This kind of intentional nature journaling helps nurture a stronger bond to the living world around them.

Rainy Day Science Activities

There are those summer days when it just rains. So how about using them as an opportunity to bust boredom with fun rainy day science experiments? It is good to have a list of simple experiments to hand, and the supplies ready for such days, particularly if you have science-mad kids and teens!

An easy activity that does not require any fancy materials is creating secret messages. Explore the ideas of encryption by making coded messages.

Another easy activity is making a lava lamp. Young children enjoy watching the bubbles move through the vegetable oil and water mixture. 

Children of all ages can have fun designing and making their own Rube Goldberg machine. These build engineering skills, as well as creativity, as well as being tons fun! Try using different household items and different materials to make your machine as creative as possible.

Teens who may have more technical skills and want a super cool challenge over the summer may want to make a pendulum wave toy. The pendulum wave toy is a series of pendulums with varying lengths. The lengths are related mathematically, so their motion is synchronized. It’s a physics activity that creates curiosity. Teens love it!

A Summer of Science Activities for Teens

If your child is particularly interested in engineering and other STEM activities, look for STEM contests in your area, or science camps over the summer. Or as a special treat, plan a road trip to a science museum; marine or animal park; or space center.

So there you have it! Twelve science activities for teens oodles of resources to for summer science fun for the whole family. No matter how you incorporate science into your summer vacation, have a great time making memories this summer.

Shannan Swindler

About the author

Shannan shares her passion for helping others use the world as their classroom at Captivating Compass. Her home base is in Scotland, where she home educates and learns on location throughout Europe as much as possible. She teaches online at Arise Home Education and creates digital curricula that promotes a Chrisitan worldview through creative learning and family travel experiences (in person & virtually).

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