Ocean and Camping 2 Exciting Themes for Summer School

summer school fun
Students love these 2 exciting summer school themes!

Dive into Learning: Ocean and Camping Themes for  Summer School

What do you think of when you think of summer school? If you’re a student, no matter what comes to mind, there’s still the inescapable reality…Summer school is mandatory. You’re not choosing summer school because it’s a fun time or a special experience.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way for YOUR summer school class! Summer school offers a unique opportunity for elementary students to continue learning in a fun and engaging way. This year, why not take your students on a journey under the sea or out into the great outdoors? Ocean and camping themes can turn your summer school program into an adventure that combines education with excitement. Let’s explore how you can implement these themes to create an unforgettable summer school experience.

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Ocean Theme: Dive Deep into Discovery

1. Classroom Decor: Transform your classroom into an underwater wonderland. Use blue and green streamers to create waves and hang fish cutouts, seashells, and starfish from the ceiling. Create a large mural of an ocean scene on one wall, featuring a variety of sea creatures.

2. Reading and Writing:

  • Books: Choose books related to the ocean for reading time. Titles like “The Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister or “Mister Seahorse” by Eric Carle are perfect for younger students. A great read aloud is “Dolphins at Daybreak” by Mary Pope Osborne. It is one of my favorite Magic Treehouse books. I loved to encourage my students to write reading responses about each chapter. They  wrote what their predictions were.
  • Writing: Have students write a short story about an adventure under the sea. Encourage them to think about what kinds of creatures they might meet and what mysteries they might uncover. They can also do research on an ocean animal of their choice.  They can use these word wall cards to help keep them on topic as they write.
  • I introduced the words during morning meeting and give students the opportunity to discuss what they know or want to know about these animals.
ocean vocabulary word wall cards
Students love using these ocean word wall cards in a writing center.

3. Science Activities:

  • Marine Biology: Teach students about different ocean habitats and the creatures that live there. Conduct a virtual tour of a coral reef or a kelp forest.

This emergent reader was great for teaching my young students about ocean life. They loved the real photos as well as singing about them. The book comes in color and black and white.

You will also get the digital Boom Card Reader.

Read more about Boom Cards.

  • Experiments: Create simple experiments to explain concepts like buoyancy. For example, test which objects float or sink in water and discuss why.
  • Sensory Table: Provide a large container with sand and toy ocean animals.

4. Art Projects:

  • Sea Creature Crafts: Use clay or paper mache to create models of fish, turtles, and other sea creatures. This is an ocean animal kit that can with that. I like this because they are simple paper plate crafts that are easy for the kids to make. You can use white paper plates and let students color and decorate them the way they like.
  • Ocean in a Bottle:

    Creating an “ocean in a bottle” craft is a fun and educational activity for kids that allows them to explore the concept of liquid density and create a beautiful, calming ocean scene. Here’s a simple guide to make an ocean in a bottle:

    ocean in a bottle craft
    This ocean craft is great fun and makes a nice sensory toy.

    Materials Needed:

    • A clear plastic bottle with a tight-fitting lid (preferably a recycled water bottle)
    • Water
    • Blue food coloring
    • Vegetable oil or baby oil
    • Small plastic ocean animals, seashells, or other small waterproof toys (optional)
    • Glitter (optional)
    • Funnel (optional, but helpful for pouring liquids)
    • Hot glue gun or strong adhesive (optional, for sealing the bottle)


    1. Clean the Bottle:
      • Make sure the bottle is clean and dry before starting the project.
    2. Add Water:
      • Fill the bottle about one-third full with water.
    3. Add Food Coloring:
      • Add a few drops of blue food coloring to the water. Adjust the amount of food coloring to achieve your desired shade of blue.
      • Cap the bottle and shake it gently to mix the color evenly.
    4. Add Ocean Toys (Optional):
      • If you have small plastic ocean animals, seashells, or other waterproof toys, add them to the colored water. These will float and move around when the bottle is shaken. Here are some fish that would do well.
    5. Add Glitter (Optional):
      • For a bit of sparkle, add a small amount of glitter to the water. This can mimic the effect of sunlight reflecting off the waves.
    6. Add Oil:
      • Use a funnel to slowly fill the rest of the bottle with vegetable oil or baby oil. Leave a small space at the top to allow for movement.
      • The oil and water will not mix, creating a layered effect that resembles the ocean.
    7. Seal the Bottle:
      • Securely screw the lid back on the bottle. For added security, you can use a hot glue gun or strong adhesive to seal the lid in place. This step is especially important if younger children will be handling the bottle.
    8. Enjoy Your Ocean in a Bottle:
      • Turn the bottle upside down and back again to see the waves move and the glitter sparkle. The oil and water will move separately, creating a mesmerizing ocean effect.

    Safety Tips:

    • Always supervise young children during the craft, especially when handling small objects and hot glue.
    • Make sure the bottle lid is securely sealed to prevent leaks.

    This simple craft is a great way to teach kids about the properties of oil and water, as well as providing a calming sensory experience. Enjoy your little ocean!

    5. Physical Activities:
  • Ocean Yoga: Teach students yoga poses inspired by ocean animals, like the starfish or dolphin pose.
  • Treasure Hunt: Organize a treasure hunt where students search for clues and “treasures” related to the ocean theme.

Camping Theme: Explore the Great Outdoors

1. Classroom Decor: Bring the great outdoors inside by setting up a mock campsite. Use tents, sleeping bags, and camping chairs. Decorate with trees made from construction paper and hang paper lanterns around the room.

2. Reading and Writing:

  • Books: Select camping-themed books such as “A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee” by Chris Van Dusen or “Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping” by Mélanie Watt.
  • Writing: Ask students to write about a camping trip. They can describe their ideal campsite, what activities they would do, and any wildlife they might encounter or they can write about their camping trips with family and friends.

3. Science Activities:

  • Nature Study: Discuss local wildlife and plants. If possible, take a nature walk and have students identify different species.
  • Survival Skills: Teach basic survival skills like how to purify water, build a shelter, or what to do if they get lost in the woods.
  • Camping-Themed STEM Challenges: Incorporate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) into your camping theme. Challenge students to build the strongest bridge using sticks and string.

4. Art Projects:

  • Nature Art: Use leaves, twigs, and rocks to create natural art projects.
  • Campfire Craft: Make a faux campfire using tissue paper and LED lights, and use it for storytelling sessions.
faux campfire with led lights
Students can read or sing around the faux campfire.

5. Physical Activities:

  • Camping Games: Play traditional camping games like capture the flag, sack races, or tug-of-war.
  • Obstacle Course: Set up an obstacle course that mimics outdoor challenges like climbing over logs or crawling under “branches”.

Integrating the Themes

1. Themed Weeks: Consider splitting your summer school into themed weeks, dedicating one week to the ocean and the next to camping. This keeps the excitement fresh and gives students something new to look forward to.

2. Culminating Activities:

  • Ocean Fair: Host an Ocean Fair where students display their ocean-themed art projects, present their sea creature models, and share their underwater adventure stories.
  • Camp Out Day: Plan a Camp Out Day where students can wear their camping gear, share stories and songs around the faux campfire, and enjoy a picnic-style lunch. Set up tents for students and let them use flashlights to read books in their tents.

We sang a song about camping from this resource that includes an emergent reader, word cards, Boom Cards, and these cut and paste worksheets.

camping reading comprehensionresources
Students increase reading comprehension as they have fun learning about camping.

3. Cross-Curricular Connections: Incorporate math by using ocean and camping themes for problem-solving activities. For example, calculate the distance swum by different sea creatures or measure the perimeter of a tent setup.

By bringing these vibrant themes into your summer school program, you’ll create a dynamic learning environment that keeps students engaged and excited about coming to school. The ocean and camping themes not only provide a wealth of educational opportunities but also foster a love for nature and the environment. So, get ready to dive deep and explore the wild with your students this summer!

Can’t wait to hear all about it!

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