Summer break is finally here! Now teens can set aside their school books, turn off their brains, and lounge by the poolside.

Wait, no! Teens shouldn’t turn off their brains during the summer!

Summer is an excellent time for brains to shift gears but not come to a grinding halt. During the summer, there’s a breathing space from the pressures of high school that gives students the chance to exercise their creativity and continue to challenge their minds through the summer months.

We’ve thought of five great places that teens can go to get inspiration and steer clear of the summer slump.

TED Talks

At TED, teens can find hundreds of videos that highlight fascinating research in any field, ideas for various projects, and ways to improve their own and other people’s lives.

We particularly recommend that teens check out this playlist: When school’s out for the summer.

The highlight of these eight videos that we’re geeking out about is an 18-minute talk from John Green (the author of The Fault in Our Stars and other great fiction) about how to learn things online.

The playlist also talks about gardening, yarn bombing, writing love letters, and using satellites to discover ruins in Peru. What’s not to love?

The whole TED website overflows with inspiring stories and ideas to get excited about and to implement. The next time you’re bored, try learning something new through a TED talk.


YouTube videos are the ultimate teach-yourself guide to anything. Topics range from life skills to hobbies to how to prepare for college.

    Recommended YouTube Channels:

You can also enhance your knowledge by digging deeper into subjects you find interesting but didn’t have time to focus on during the school year.

There are endless channels featuring really talented, interesting people who love nothing more than showing others how to do awesome (or practical or creative or simple) things.


Current events shape the world around us. However, most teens are only aware of a current event if it’s mentioned on social media or on their favorite Netflix show.

The summer is a great time to start paying attention to world news, and podcasts are the perfect way to ease into global citizenship.

Becoming educated on current events can help you build a foundational knowledge of world politics. A news story may shape how you discuss politics with your parents or friends. Learning about how a social issue affects your community could help you find volunteer opportunities at a nonprofit you care about.

Every major news publication has podcasts you can follow. Here are a few we recommend:

What tends to set popular podcasts apart from other forms of media is their ability to tell an interesting story. Some of the most highly rated podcasts focus on sharing stories through a unique lens.

Popular Podcasts:

  • This American Life – Weekly podcast that tells themed stories from different perspectives.
  • How I Built This – Podcast that shares the stories behind some of the world’s most successful companies.
  • 99% Invisible – Podcast that focuses on design and architecture.

If current events aren’t your thing, then podcasts about healthy or mindful living might do the trick.

Podcasts about physical health are almost as numerous as podcasts about mental health. The summer is a great time to learn to build a great habit such as balancing a diet, doing a zombie run, or learning how to meditate.


The next time you log into Netflix, try watching a documentary about a topic that interests you instead of watching the latest Marvel movie.

While fictional narratives allow you to venture to places across time and space, nonfiction can help you better understand the world around you.

Netflix is full of amazing documentaries that are both educational and entertaining. Many of them are fascinating, and some are even emotionally moving. It’s entirely possible that watching one will change your perspective on life.

    Documentaries to Watch This Summer on Netflix:

Watching documentaries turns screen time from something focused exclusively on entertainment to something that raises the consciousness.

The world is a fascinating place, and documentaries can help you understand the intricate details of various aspects of life.


We’ve saved the best for last!

Summer reading lists full of classic fiction, teen fiction, nonfiction, or self-improvement are available everywhere and research shows that reading anything is time well spent.

But we’d like teens to consider this list of 88 books to read, curated by TED. This list is especially great for two reasons: there’s a book for literally every taste, and there’s a link to a talk from the author or another relevant speaker.

May we suggest beginning with Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean? This book of biographies features women of wit and shows the impact they made on their influential fields. It’s absolutely golden.


The bottom line is that there are so many more things to do than wake up, play video games for 10 hours, and go back to sleep.

Avoid the summer slump by giving your brain nourishing food for thought from TED, YouTube, Netflix, podcasts, and, as always, great books.