Four fun educational summer activities

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Summer’s here, and the living is easy. Well, hopefully not too easy. Minds need to be exercised, and college application deadlines don’t vanish when the beaches get crowded. Why not, therefore, make use of the time and be a bit productive? Here are a few ideas that might help. All of them are hands-on, kinesthetic projects.

1. Build an online portfolio

Everyone gets Googled these days. Apply for a job and they’ll Google you. Make a new friend and they’ll Google you. Apply for college -- well, let’s just assume that young people should expect to be the subjects of regular online searches. This fact might make some people a bit uncomfortable, but it can also be turned into an advantage by creating an online persona that will show a young person in a very positive light. Create a blog, post photos or videos. Write and shoot a short film and make it public. Music, fashion, scrapbooks, the possibilities are endless. Publish poetry online, post some sketches. Create some content that will make its creator look awesome. Make it look great, so that anyone looking at the content will think, “wow, this person is awesome!”

2. Research careers

Your average high school will probably include some form of career planning, but chances are it’s not very thorough or in-depth. But summertime can be a time to really make a go of it. Don’t just make dry lists of jobs and salaries -- think of dream careers and how to make them happen. Think of less risky, stable jobs. Research job statistics, which are freely available on the web, that can reveal where demand exists for certain jobs. Ask for help in arranging visits to workplaces, as many employers are more than willing to answer questions (and might remember initiative). Most importantly, go beyond salary and explore lifestyle -- who the people are in a chosen profession, what they’re like, how they feel, what sort of lives they lead.

3. Research university majors

This is another activity that’s standard practice in most high schools, but it’s hard to miss how many young people drift into college majors without much thought or planning. Why not do a serious, heavy search of majors, minors, and schools that offer them? Look into specific courses, and professors, even textbooks, as well as any and all program requirements. Serious research might open some eyes.

4.Outline a grand project

This one might seem a bit goofy, but it could be fun. Imagine you’re an artist or an entrepreneur with unlimited time, resources and talent, and you’ve been tasked with creating something big and amazing, like a novel, a feature film, a high-tech startup, a bridge, a house, anything big. It’s not necessary to actually create the item, but do the research and plan it out. Draw up notes, sketches, even budgets. Do character bios for a novel, profit projections for a company, timelines for manufacturing a new electric car. Documented properly, this could even be a portfolio piece.

The overall goal of these activities is to keep the mind active and practice independent learning, in addition to extensive research, analysis and, in some cases, creative expression. Perhaps most importantly, they can all serve as footsteps on the road to university and beyond.

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