Activity Idea: Summer “Camp”

Well, it’s been a while. The transition from “Mommy school” to “Mommy camp” has been… a learning experience.  At the end of the school year I thought I had a solid plan.  To be honest, I still think I had a solid plan.  I just chose not to follow it.  See, I found that Varsity Tutors was offering free online summer camps.  How perfect!  My kids could register for as many camps as they wanted and we would have cool stuff to do over the summer.  Potions, Minecraft, graphic novels… heck, I even planned to sit in on some of the classes.  I put together a weekly schedule, charted it all out, and even made plans for additional summer learning.   Things started off great, but after a couple weeks they needed a break.  We had to adjust our tack.    

We are still doing the free summer camps, sort of.  On Friday we look at our camps for next week and decide which ones they really want to do.  We reevaluate participating both before and after camp starts.  Sometimes we even make it through an entire week! 

How to Start: So, where’s the activity idea you ask?  Why do I have this picture of an artery-hardening ice cream “sundae” above (yup, under all of that other stuff there is actually ice cream)?  For the summer, I have let the kids take the lead in learning.  I am listening to their ideas and then building activities (lessons) around them.  One activity that we’ve had success with is making home-made ice cream.  Not in one of those ice cream maker contraptions.  We made ice cream in a bag.  It’s a lot of fun, and you can make the kids work for it.  Believe it or not, this is a lesson I used with my high school students… back when you could do that in school.  This activity has STEAM content for all levels. 

What to do next: There are a ton of recipes on-line for this.  Below is what we did, feel free to tweak and adjust as you like.  As you will see, that can even be part of the lesson.


  • Quart storage bag (make sure you get a tight seal when closed)
  • Gallon storage bag (make sure you get a tight seal when closed)
  • ½ cup half and half
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Any other flavor or ingredients you want to put in your ice cream
  • 3 cups Ice
  • 1/3 cup Salt (I prefer rock salt, but I’ve heard all types of salt will work).


  • Hypothesis, as a scientist, I have to include this.  Some sample questions you can ask are: What do you think the steps will be? What do you think will happen?  How long do you think it will take?
  • Procedure:
    • Add the half and half, sugar, vanilla, and any other flavors or ingredients into the quart bag and zip closed.
    • Put Ice and salt into the gallon storage bag.
    • Put quart storage bag in the gallon storage bag and close.  Mix and shake until ice cream forms (about 10-15 minutes).
    • When the ice cream is ready, enjoy!  Just make sure you do not get the salt from the outside bag into the ice cream.  I use a sponge to wipe own the outside of the ice cream bag before opening.
  • Analysis:  What happened?  Why did it happen?  Would you get a different result with different ingredients? Different salt?  I have a feeling the kiddos would up for re-testing this experiment!

What we found (new section): I received a great recommendation about including our personal results, so here goes!  The kiddos loved doing this experiment (go figure), and after their first attempt got very creative with their ingredients.  Not just the flavors (cinnamon worked out great), but how they flavored.  For example, how would you make chocolate ice cream?  Would you add chocolate chips, melted chocolate, chocolate powder?  The experimentation for this activity is endless.  And, it doesn’t take much to get the kiddos to try another batch!  However, I have two warnings.  First is the home-made ice cream version of “are we there yet”.  They get tired, impatient, and cold.  Grabbing a pair of oven mitts helped, as did only making one batch at a time, and having the kiddos take turns mixing.  Second, when they ask if they can add toppings, make sure you monitor the situation closely…

Expand it: How can you bring in other content areas?

  • Science: Chemistry fits in perfect here, from states of matter for the younger kiddos to chemical reactions for the older.
  • Technology: Can your kiddos design a machine to do the job? Something that works faster or isn’t as cold to hold?
  • Engineering: Now that you’ve designed an ice cream making machine, build it!
  • Arts: Let the kiddos get creative.  What flavors do they think will work well together?
  • Math: For the younger kiddos, work on measurements.  You can even bring in English and Metric.  For older kiddos, experiment with amounts of your ingredients and conversions.

STEAM Resources:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: