Creative Ideas to Avoid the Summer Slide

This summer let your students dig deep into meaningful projects that will engage not only their minds but also their hearts. It’s all about stories, coupled with award winning books, and hands-on projects.

Here are just a few LEARN FROM THE GREATS ideas for Middle-High School students:


Have students listen to Maine Poet Laureate and 2015 Pen Award for Poetry winner Wesley McNair’s story found in the Learning Lab under ARTS / POETS and read his memoir The Words I Chose.
Assignment: Students should access Wes McNair’s archive at Colby College, Maine via hyperlink in Learning Lab, click Lovers of the Lost tab and read / listen to:

  • After My Stepfather’s Death
  • How I Became a Poet
  • My Father Going Away
  • Kuhre’s Farm

Write a short, one to two paragraph autobiographical sketch in prose on three or more of the following topics:

  • Love
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Life
  • Lessons
  • School
  • Future Plans

Turn the autobiographical sketches into poems. Option: Have students choose one of the poems and audio record it.



Have students listen to co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council Gus Speth’s story found in the Learning Lab – SCIENCE / EARTH / ENVIRONMENT and read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.


Understanding the history of the environmental movement.

Have students make a graphic timeline of the modern environmental movement with photographs and milestones detailed.


After reading Silent Spring have students research the plight of the monarch butterfly, further understanding the ongoing impact of herbicides and pesticides. Students should be ready to discuss their findings upon their return to school in late summer and, working in groups, determine what they can do to help the monarch in the local / school community and then put that plan into action.



Have students listen to Claudia Cords Damon’s story The Plot to Assassinate Hitler found in the Learning Lab under HUMANITIES / EUROPEAN HISTORY and read related book The White Rose, Munich 1942 – 1943 by Inge Scholl.

Assignment: Inform students that during the Holocaust there were many stories of those who bravely fought against the Nazi. Their assignment is to choose one person from either the Cords-Damon narrative or from The White Rose and research that person’s background more deeply. Students should be prepared to share their findings in the late summer / fall, which should presented in infographic format or in a one-to-two page narrative.



Have students listen to naturalist, author, illustrator, and MacArthur Fellow David Carroll’s story found in the Learning Lab under ART / BOOK ILLUSTRATORS / WRITERS (cross referenced under SCIENCE / EARTH / ENVIRONMENT) and read his book Following the Water.

Assignment: Students are to choose an area to visit daily (backyard, park, etc.) and keep a naturalist’s notebook. Teachers are encouraged to access the Sierra Club’s Keeping a Nature Journal article found here to help students understand the purpose and value of natural world journaling.

Looking for other ideas?  Just ask!  Write to us at:



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Story Preservation Initiative’s Learning Lab combines our primary source audio with project-based lesson plans for rich, multi-disciplinary learning.

Info graphics, photographs, transcriptions, book recommendations, and related links of interest round out each Learning Lab page, further piquing student’s curiosity and encouraging student-led inquiry.

The Learning Lab was developed using a ‘whole-school model’ so that all teachers and students in every participating school have access.

Our online forum allows for sharing of resources, outcomes, and experiences, creating both an intra-school and inter-school Community of Practice.

The site is available on a modestly priced subscription basis: $600 annually per school or $175 for a 3-month whole school subscription.  Funds generated are used to continue to grow the site – with more stories, lesson plans, and related resources added on a regular basis.

To find out more, click here:

To subscribe to the Learning Lab or to register for a 10-day free trial, click Login / Register on homepage.




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