This article first appeared in Kidsburgh.org, a media partner of NEXTpittsburgh that focuses on making Pittsburgh a better place to raise kids.  

After last summer’s disruption from the Covid pandemic, kids are ready to have fun again. There are many things to look forward to, including vacations, reunions with relatives and parties with friends, as the world moves closer to normal.

But summer break doesn’t mean a break from learning. According to a report for the Brookings Institute by David M. Quinn and Morgan Polikoff, students, especially from historically disadvantaged groups, start each academic year with achievement levels lower than at the start of summer break. Summer brain drain or summer slide, which educators have tracked since 1906, can stunt students’ academic progress.

Considering the challenges kids faced during a pandemic school year, it’s more important than ever to keep brains in top shape.

“The boundaries of the school calendar should never impact learning,” says Mt. Lebanon School District Superintendent Timothy J. Steinhauer. “Learning in the summer should be much more interest and experiential focused. Brain development and growth are always impacted by novelty and experience. The summer months provide the flexibility and opportunity for these types of varied experiences.”

Fortunately for kids and parents, there are many fun opportunities to stave off summer slide and keep young minds active and learning. Here’s a roundup of 11 brainy summer activities:

Image courtesy of CS Explorers.

1. CS Explorers Workforce Readiness Summer Program

A collaboration between CitiparksStem Coding Lab, Forty X 80 and the Pittsburgh Technology Council, the free six-week program helps kids in grades 4-8 develop experience in technology and computer science. July 12-Aug. 19.

Photo courtesy of Tech 25.

2. Hearcorp’s Tech 25 Live Sound Apprentice Program

Kids interested in learning how to be a sound or lighting technician can apply for this four-week apprenticeship program. Students will receive a Live Sound 1 Certification and help produce the Music on the Mon Concert Series at Southside Works this summer. The application deadline is June 21.

Photo courtesy of Allegheny County Library Association.

3. Allegheny County Library Association Virtual Learning Programs

The ACLA and its member libraries have created a roster of fun programs designed to keep young minds engaged. Kids are encouraged to develop readings lists, keep track of activities on virtual Bingo cards, and take part in a story walk at one of the county’s many parks. The ACLA also features partnered programs with organizations including the Allegheny Land TrustPhipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Photo courtesy of Innovation Works.

4. Innovation Work’s Run Startable Pittsburgh

Students ages 13-18 can learn how to design and commercialize hardware products, build their own businesses, and prepare pitches to get a share of $10,000 in prizes. Limited to 60 students, the six-week program starts June 28.

Photo courtesy of Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania.

5. Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania

Registration is open for in-person Summer Day Camp at nine Clubhouse locations. This year kids can register for theme weeks ranging from performing arts to Olympic sports. The Boys & Girls Clubs are also offering Career Works through its Workforce Development Academy to help kids develop internships, apprenticeships and other skills need in workplaces.

Image courtesy of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

6. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s PGHReadsFive Summer Reading Challenge

Budding bookworms are asked to read five books between June 13 and Aug. 31. And kids up to the age of 18 can start their own home libraries: Every time a child visits a CLP location, they’ll be given a free book (as long as supplies last) as part of the library’s summer reading initiative.

Image courtesy of Bridge to Learn.

7. Bridge to Learn

This resource offers a variety of kids’ activities, Bridge to Learn provides information and links to year-round learning opportunities. Its Program Finder is the go-to search engine to access tech support, child care services and opportunities for socializing. There’s a lot of potential for fun, entertaining activities, too.

Image courtesy of Sarah Heinz House.

8. Kids Comic-Con All Summer Long  

The Sarah Heinz House’s Media Lab and the ToonSeum will host programs related to photography, comic drawing, and props and accessories fabrication over four two-week sessions. The cost per session is $30 with eight classes per session through Aug. 5.

Image courtesy of Carnegie Science Center.

9. Science on the Road Goes Camp-tastic

The Carnegie Science Center is offering a series of livestream events geared to kids from kindergarten to the 8th grade starting June 24 through Aug. 9. The events include Wild by Design: Innovation from A to Zoo; Who Wants to be an Engineer: Imagine It. Make It Make It Better; and the Science of Hockey, a collaboration with Pittsburgh Penguins. Access is $15 per family (up to five viewers) or $150 per classroom of 35 students.

Photo courtesy of Gwen’s Girls.

10. Gwen’s Girls Virtual Summer Camps

The Gwen’s Girls Academic Support Initiative offers year-round free tutoring to Allegheny County kids in grades K-12. The summer months include a variety of virtual camps for kids from ages 8-18. Play Pokemon while developing math, sportsmanship and reading skills. Engage in hands-on, DIY science experiments. Take a virtual tour around the world exploring different cultures. Check out the complete lineup here.

Image courtesy of Kidsburgh.

11. Kidsburgh!

You are here! We’re proud that Kidsburgh is a source of news, information and events geared toward Pittsburgh kids and families. Watch for our weekly Things to do with kids in Pittsburgh for activities and entertainment news. Click into our guides like Summer Camps and Pick-Your-Own Farms. STEM projects include a slew of Maker Monday activities to keep kids busy. It all adds up to a great summer of fun!

For events for kids and families this summer, read Top 10 June events in Pittsburgh — and they’re all in person and 11 can’t-miss June events for kids in Pittsburgh.