July is likely a time for children to be antsy for something different to do and parents looking for simple ways to engage their children in meaningful activities. The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) developed a free summer publication, STEM in the Summer, for families and educational service providers to use and distribute.\r\n\u201cResearch indicates that summer learning loss can put students up to two grade levels behind in math and reading, creating an opportunity gap that may be challenging to overcome. We hope that this summer STEM newsletter provides parents and the broader community with affordable hands-on activity ideas that can bridge the gap,\u201d said Dr. Julie Brown, director of advanced learning.\r\nTo promote STEM engagement, IALR has posted two challenges featured in the newsletter on their social media links: 1) Create a balloon zip line, and 2) The Marshmallow Spaghetti Challenge. Families are encouraged to share a photo of their completion of one of the two activities. Each photo will serve as one entry into a drawing for a Kindle Fire. Photographs can also be shared via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. All photographs must be posted on IALR\u2019s social media or emailed by Friday, August 5 to be eligible for the drawing.\r\n\u2022 Create your own balloon zip line: materials needed: balloon, tape, string, straw.\r\nDirections:\r\n1. Measure out the amount of string you want to use, then cut. This can be adjusted according to the size of the room or space being used. This activity can also be done outside.\r\n2. Tie one end of the string to a support. Examples include a tree, chair, or doorknob.\r\n3. Put the string through the straw.\r\n4. Blow up the balloon, but do not tie it, just pinch it. (This activity can be adjusted by testing different sizes of balloons.)\r\n5. Now use tape to attach the balloon to the straw. Double-sided tape works best. Continue to pinch the balloon until the balloon is secured to the straw.\r\n6. Make sure the string is pulled tightly. When ready, let go of the balloon and see how far it goes.\r\n\u201cThe students must first hypothesize which size balloons will go fastest and which will go farthest. We conduct the experiment and analyze the results,\u201d said Dana Silicki, IALR program coordinator.\r\n\u2022 The Marshmallow Spaghetti Challenge: materials needed: 20 pieces of uncooked spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string, 1 marshmallow\r\nDirections:\r\n1. Create teams, could simply be a parent on one team and child on the other team.\r\n2. Give each team the tape, string, spaghetti, and marshmallow. Provide each team access to scissors.\r\n3. Read the following instructions to all teams at the same time. Each team has 18 minutes to build the tallest, free-standing structure using the materials supplied. The marshmallow must be attached to the top of the structure you build. After 18 minutes, measure the height of each structure that remains standing with the marshmallow on top. The winner is the team whose free-standing structure is the tallest.\r\n4. Provide a warning at 17 minutes.\r\n5. At the end of 18 minutes, measure those structures created within the rules and that are still standing.\r\n\u201cI love doing the marshmallow challenge because it involves minimal supplies, can be done with any age group, and ignites creativity. I incorporate the engineering design process into it and have students design their structure, then build, evaluate, and redesign,\u201d said Silicki.