The brain functions better when it can breath!
As a product of the Adirondacks myself, and now a mother to some Adirondack-offspring, I didn't need much convincing of the power that the outdoor environment has on the brain. However, when I recently stumbled upon an interesting article about the benefits of outdoor classrooms, I still found it intriguing. The article contained a laundry-list of examples of the powerful impact of outdoor learning -- including everything from increased enthusiasm for learning to producing more responsible citizens. Plus, teaching kids in an outdoor environment not only promotes positive academic growth, it's fun!
Now I'm left questioning as to why am I thinking about school? After all, I just got done celebrating the packing of the last PB&J of the school year! I've earned summer break as much as the kids... haven't I? Time to think again!
Summer Vacation EDU
Summer is really when our roll as educators hits full swing. It's the unique time of year when we have more time with our little sponges to teach & inspire them about the world around us. As parents of 3, my husband and I are constantly looking for ways to encourage them to follow their curiosity & learn from it. Lucky for us, the Adirondacks is really a 6-million-acre classroom, with endless nooks and crannies to explore. However, if I were to narrow down my recommendations of activities to encourage inquisitive minds, the list would be as follows...
Fun Learning Activities By Age Group:
Note: these activities expand well beyond the recommended ages listed below. These are merely a suggestion of the top interest level based on age.
The Wild Center's Junior Naturalist Program
From watching the swimming otters at Otter Falls to hanging in the human-sized spider web on Wild Walk, The Wild Center offers no shortage in wonderment for curious minds. But there is one lesser known program that The Wild Center offers to budding naturalists - the Junior Naturalist Program. The Junior Naturalist Program is a self-guided environmental education tour focused on engaging children in the natural world. Young visitors of all ages are provided an illustrated guidebook and questions adapted to specific age groups. After completion, your youngster can change their status to Jr. Naturalist and receive their patch (small fee applies for the patch - guidebooks are available for free at the Admission Desk).
The Adirondack Public Observatory - Stargazing with an Astronomer
As your child's mind grows and they begin to be able & eager to process information more abstractly, the fascination with the night time sky becomes more prevalent. While the Adirondacks is a wonderful place to stargaze with the naked eye, the real chance to learn and discover comes from visiting the Adirondack Public Observatory where they can take advantage of their state-of-the-art telescopes and knowledgeable astronomers. Watch their faces and wait for their response as they climb the step-stool and look through the lens to get a clear view of Saturn's rings.
Insider's tip: have them take along a digital camera, cell phone, or iPod to attached to the scope for a cool photo to share with their friends. Stargazing is free and open to the public every Friday through October (clear sky dependent). Sessions begin 30 minutes after dark. Can't make it on a Friday? No problem, private stargazing is available for a reasonable fee - must book in advance.
I don't believe I'm alone when I say that teenagers are the most challenging age group to engage and entertain, especially on an educational level. Tell them you want to do a "educational" activity and their eyes roll (or you picture them rolling but really aren't sure because they are locked on their phone). Well, have you tried Geocaching?
Remember when they were little and you would create little treasure hunts around the house or yard? Well Geocaching is essentially that but high-tech. Simply download a free Geocaching app and let million-dollar satellites lead you on a hunt for hidden boxes in the woods. Trails such as Mt. Arab, Goodman Mountain, Coney Mountain and even The Wild Center have caches waiting to be discovered. What a cool way to get your teens active, feed their curiosity and teach them to navigate.
A Natural Place for Discovery...
These are just a few of the many ways you can feed your child's growing mind while exploring in Tupper Lake. The list is practically endless - from learning to navigate with a map & compass to identifying wildflowers, there are endless opportunities to teach them about the natural world. Don't you remember catching tadpoles as a child, or watching a caterpillar metamorphosis into a butterfly? Tell me those aren't memories you are looking to make with your child?
Then there are some of the more traditional activities such as story hour hosted every Tuesday at the Goff Nelson Memorial Library or Day Camp presented by the Tupper Lake Recreation Department. Available to both residents and visitors, Day Camp is available by a day or week basis and offers a wide program of activities for your little campers.
In your quest for discovery, we invite you to come explore some of the opportunities Tupper Lake serves up for curious minds of all ages. Make plans to visit and learn with your little ones this summer & create memories along the way that will last a lifetime.
- Related Article: 10 Important Life Lessons Your Child Can Learn in Tupper Lake