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The Big List of Educational Summer Activities in Orange County, CA

Guest post by: Kimberly Ortloff, teacher at Dr. Ralph E. Hawes Elementary School at Huntington Beach City School District

I am a special education teacher who works in the Learning Center at Ralph Elementary School. I serve both general education at-risk students and students with identified disabilities in grades 3-5. These students come to me because they require extra, individualized support in order to make academic gains. A common trend that occurs with some of my students is retention and regression of previously learned material. This means that over Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, and summer break, many students forget what they have learned, and they may not have truly mastered the material.

Summer break is typically over a two month period, which is a significant period of time. During this time, parents have a unique opportunity to set their students up for success by including educational activities in summer plans.

The intensity and rigor of new standards, including Common Core, are not going anywhere anytime soon. Providing your child with educational activities, whether they have been exposed to the content yet or not, will be beneficial. By reinforcing concepts children have learned and engaging their curiosity with new activities, parents can help children not only retain information, but develop skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, persistence and creativity, which will help them succeed in academics as well as the real world.

Here is a list of local free or low-cost activities in Orange County that will have your whole family engaged in educational fun this summer!

Experience the World through Story: Summer Reading Programs and Challenges

Many public libraries and other organizations offer summer reading programs where children can win prizes by completing books at their reading level. Reading during the summer helps keep young minds active and engaged!


Read & Ride, anywhere & OC Fair, Costa Mesa, CA

Calling all bookworms! Young bookworms (ages 5-11) can complete their summer reading list anywhere (even on a vacation trip!), fill out the Read & Ride book report form and earn three free carnival rides for the OC Fair.

Huntington Beach Central Park Library Summer Reading Program, Huntington Beach, CA

HBPL’s summer reading program is divided into four age ranges, 0-5, 6-12, teens and adults. Register online and earn badges based on the completion of books at your child’s reading level.

Summer Library Challenge: Read for the Win, your local Orange County Public Library

Read and win prizes based on the completion of books. Register online and visit your local library for special events.



Looking for specific books to read this summer? Check out these fun math books for kids!

Solve Problems: STEM Challenges & Activities

STEM is a very common enrichment activity that is implemented in classrooms throughout our local districts. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. There are so many STEM activities/challenges that parents can create at home. On Pinterest (teachers use it frequently to share lessons, activities and ideas) there are several inexpensive ideas for STEM challenges. STEM activities provide children with the opportunity to engage in higher order, creative, thinking.

Explorium, OC Fair, Costa Mesa, CA

OCFair-Banner-250x250_MIND.jpgThis tent at the OC Fair is dedicated to kids activities for all ages, many of which cultivate interest in STEM. Experience an interactive exhibit of automata at Crank it Up! Families will be inspired to learn about mechanisms including drives, pulleys, ratchets and levers. Help a pretend furry or feathered friend on the road to good health at the Pet Vet, let kids try their hand at making music at the Musical “Petting Zoo”, or enter into the Magic-Day Future Magician’s Contest on the Explorium stage!

Full STEAM Ahead, Seal Beach Mary Wilson Library, Seal Beach, CA

Suitable for ages 5-12, topics will include electrical circuitry, robotics, coding for kids, and other tech challenges. Occurs Wednesdays until July 27, 2016. Drop in for one program or come to them all. This free series is sponsored by a grant from the Disney VoluntEARS Community Fund Program.

Science Saturdays and Science Sundays, ExplorOcean, Newport Beach, CA

Think like a scientist with these quick and engaging activities! Science Saturdays and Sundays are free and offered to children of all ages.

Summer STEMgineers, Garden Grove Library, Garden Grove, CA

Ages 12 and under are welcome every Thursday from 5-6 pm for activities exploring Science, Technology, Engineering and Math! See the calendar.

Then and Now, Clark Regional Park, Buena Park, California

Clark Regional Park hosts free activities on the last Sunday of every month. These hands-on exhibits challenge kids to compare what the world was like 10,000 years ago to today.

Model Rocketry Classes and Launches, Southern California Rocket Association, Fullerton, CA and various locations

Challenge kids to create their own rocket, and launch it at one of the controlled and supervised launch locations on specified dates. Check the schedule here.

Science Summer Discovery Workshops, OC Science, Irvine, CA

Learn about the scientific method and conduct experiments in this series of workshops for grade 4-6. See the workshop topics and register online.

Get Outside: Explore Nature

Centennial Farm, OC Fair & Event Center, Costa Mesa, CA

Experience a 3-acre working farm which is chock full of edible crops, flowers and lots of animals big and small. View chickens, pigs, turkeys, cows, sheep, goats, worms, bees and even peacocks! Seeing these animals in real life helps children build schemas to differentiate, identify and understand animals.

Family Nature Walks, Crystal Cove State Park, Laguna Beach, CA

Join park naturalists on a family nature hike at Crystal Cove State Park to learn about the plants and animals living in the park on select Saturdays and Sundays this summer. Check out the July 2016 schedule online for dates.


A beautiful view at Crystal Cove State Park

Cool Summer Nights, Shipley Nature Center, Huntington Beach, CA

Suitable for all ages, experience a new topic with this free activity every Thursday evening this summer. Topics include birds, building habitats, bees and outer space! See the flyer for more information.

Get Creative: Explore Art & Music

Crafting Corner and Visual Arts Gallery, OC Fair, Costa Mesa, CA

Kids can craft and take home their own creation from the Crafting Corner in the Explorium. Or view the selection of student work from the Laguna College of Arts & Design in the Visual Arts Gallery. Check out the full list of things to do.

Creation Stations, Orange County Great Park, Irvine, CA

Play, create and explore at these weekend workshops open to families with children of all ages.

Summer Orchestra Camp, the Community Congregational Church, Los Alamitos, CA

All children, ages 7 to 14, that play orchestral instruments, take private lessons and can read music are invited to join the La Petite Orchestra Camp, which runs from July 28 to Aug. 8.

Looking for more activity ideas for you and your kids this summer? Check out:

Header photo credit to Anita Peppers at

The OC Fair & Events Center is partnering with MIND to support the upcoming Math Fair.

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MIND Research Institute welcomes guest blogs that highlight best practices in math education, blended learning and innovative learning strategies that inspire students at all ages.


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