Archive for ‘Field trips’

April 11, 2014

The Georgia Museum of Art

750 pixels Terry Allen main_8247

Photos courtesy of the Georgia Museum of Art

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on April 9, 2014. Believe it or not, I wasn’t planning this field trip when I started writing my art series. It’s serendipity at its best!

My boys love to produce lots of original artwork. I keep their supplies out where they can reach them, so art happens almost daily. This year I also have done a few formal lessons in art. For example, we’ve looked at some of the artists from the Renaissance, and we’ve talked about color and line. I had them make a color wheel, and we did some fun activities to explore how everything is made up of lines!

I didn’t think my boys were old enough to visit an art museum, though. I imagined my seven-year-old hanging onto my arm and asking, “When are we going home?” and I imagined my four-year-old running up and down quiet hallways and knocking over some precious sculpture.

Then my sister came to visit us for a very short visit on her spring break, and the weather was not ideal for hiking, which is what I was hoping to do while she was here. It also seemed silly to drive into Atlanta when she was here for such a short time, and we were going to have to take her to the airport the next day anyway. And there are not many indoor places around here that’s fun for both kids and adults. But my sister loves art – she even teaches at a special school that emphasizes art, so we decided to take a chance on our boys and visit the Georgia Museum of Art.

The Museum is located on the University of Georgia’s East Campus. It is free for the public, though you will need to park in the Performing Arts Center parking deck and pay for parking when you leave. We were there for about two hours and paid $2 for parking.

The museum is kid-friendly. Upon entering, we were greeted at the visitor’s desk where our children were offered a bag with some activities they could do while they were visiting. They also could have taken a sketchpad and drawn pictures in it while viewing the artwork, though all these items needed to stay at the museum. My seven-year-old was happy to receive a little button he could wear on his shirt that said, “Art for Everyone.”

It had been years since I had visited the museum, and it all looked new to me. This is because in 2011, a 16,000-square-foot expansion was added to the museum. It is beautiful. There is a huge permanent collection with artwork from the Renaissance to Modern times. Some of my favorite discoveries were a portrait painted by Mary Cassatt and a small painting by Renoir.

I was happy that my boys behaved themselves, and for at least the first half the museum, they were engaged and enjoyed looking at the art. I squatted down by my four-year-old and asked him what he saw in the abstract art, so that helped him focus, but eventually, he did try to run around the big, airy rooms and hallways. (It’s tempting even for me to want to run in such lovely hallways!) But we kept him in check, and he was good boy.

GMOA

Eventually my seven-year-old did grow tired, but that probably had more to do with the leisurely pace at which the adults were moving through the museum. He enjoyed a lot of art, especially the Belleek Porcelain collection. He loves working with clay, so the delicate porcelain sculptures with such fine details were impressive. He also was taken with a special, temporary exhibit that the museum staff called “the floating pen,” but according to the museum’s website, it’s called “Machine Drawing.”

Tristan Perich, a contemporary artist and composer based in New York City, is the artist responsible for the “Machine Drawing.” He created the code that operates a machine that controls a pen, held by hooks and wires, and over a six-month installation, this “floating pen” will make a work of art on a 60-foot wall in the museum. It is fun to watch!

There was a good chunk of wall already covered in pen markings, so we thought the “floating pen” had been working for a long time. We were surprised to hear that when we visited the museum, it had only begun three days earlier. My seven-year-old wants to go back and see the wall in a few months to see what it looks like, so we’re planning to do that. (We also asked them how often they have to change the pen – the answer was everyday!)

If you would like to visit the museum, it is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10-5p.m., Thursday from 10-9p.m., and Sunday 1-5p.m. It is closed on Mondays. For parents, you may be interested in looking at their calendar and going on a Family Day, which is once a month on a Saturday and free. We have not tried that yet, but it looks like a great activity for kids.

The museum’s website is georgiamuseum.org. Click here to go directly to their page about upcoming Family Art Days.

December 12, 2013

North Atlanta Gem, Mineral, Fossil & Jewelry Show

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on December 11, 2013.

I’ve been waiting all year to tell you about the North Atlanta Gem, Mineral, Fossil and Jewelry Show. We went last year, and we’ve decided to make it a yearly tradition because we had so much fun. It’s going to be this weekend, December 13-15 at the North Atlanta Trade Center in Norcross. You won’t want to miss it.

This is a great show. It is huge, and there are so many beautiful and interesting things to look at. Maybe you like rocks or fossils, or maybe you prefer jewelry…there is something for everyone. The prices are lower than most retailers, and you’ll find things that you just can’t find anywhere else.

Last year the boys were excited to walk into the show and find two big dinosaur bones on the first tables we encountered. They were triceratops thigh bones or femurs, and we got to touch them! We talked to the men who had excavated them. Did you know you could go dinosaur bone hunting on your vacation? That’s what these men did.

Then there was the lady from the Meteorite Association of Georgia who taught the boys what the difference is between a rock and a meteorite and gave them a tiny meteorite for free. She wasn’t the only person at the show who had some small rock or fossil to give away to children.

Last year my four-year-old was three, and all “hands-on,” so I stayed by his side as we looked at some delicate fossils and rows and rows of those shiny, polished stones. There were plenty of items he was allowed to touch, so it wasn’t hard to lead him to safer tables.

My seven-year-old loved the shark jaws full of teeth and a wholly mammoth tusk. I found some pretty jewelry, and I picked out a polished ammonite charm that I still love to wear.  For less than a $1, I bought the then three-year-old a shiny stone, and he was happy with his new treasure.

There were countless fossils of fish and shark teeth. Mosasaur teeth were pretty cool too. I especially loved the fossil of a small stingray on a big slab of sandstone. We also found some fossilized dinosaur eggs!

My husband says that going to the show was like going to a museum. We also learned that the people who sell at these shows usually do it for a hobby, and they are friendly and happy to talk to you. We can see how it might be addictive to go fossil and rock hunting because a few years ago when we went to the beach, my husband got a little obsessed hunting for shark teeth in the sand. Because of his determination, my son has a nice, little collection.

The highlight of the show last year was when our seven-year-old picked out what he wanted to buy. We had given him a price he could spend, and surprisingly, he found that it was enough to buy an almost fossilized tibia bone of a bison that is between 11,000-15,000 years old! He placed it proudly on his shelf in his room.

Admission to the show is just $4 for adults, and children under 16 (accompanied by an adult) are free. Parking is free too. For more information see their website at http://www.mammothrock.com.

To see all of our photos from last year’s show, click here.

November 5, 2013

Scary, Oozy, Slimy Day at the Sandy Creek Nature Center

Attending Scary, Oozy, Slimy Day every October at the Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens, Georgia has become a tradition in my family. There’s nothing scary about it, of course. It’s a wonderful event that showcases under appreciated animals such as snakes, frogs, bugs, spiders and more. There are many hands-on activities and games for children, and children are invited to wear their Halloween costumes, if they want to.  We have especially enjoyed meeting and speaking with the college students who man several of the stations and share creepy crawlies from the university. Since my son is interested in biology, we’ve learned a lot by chatting with them.

Here are just a few images from our visit this year, in October 2013.

 

 

 

My husband the beekeeper? I don’t think so.

 

 

October 3, 2013

Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta, Georgia

I had on my wide-angle lens, and I still couldn’t get that monster in one shot, but that’s not surprising since it’s the largest dinosaur to ever walk the earth: an Argentinosaurus. And those are my people – tiny, between its feet. Also pictured: Gigantosaurus

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on October 2, 2013.

Last month we were busy going places when both my boys had their birthdays. My seven-year-old picked the Fernbank Natural History Museum as his location of choice because he wanted to see their IMAX movie “Age of the Titans,” which featured one of his favorite animals, the woolly mammoth.

We had a great time visiting this museum again, and I felt a little guilty stating in one of my columns that we liked the Tellus Science Museum better than the Fernbank. I said this because I remembered some of the exhibits looking, well, kind of old, and that remains to be true.  But for kids, it’s a great introduction to natural history, and my boys love it. And on this visit to the museum we found some areas we had never seen before.

We were thrilled to find their newly renovated kids section, the Fernbank NatureQuest. It is fantastic. There’s a ton of hands-on activities, a full size tree and tree house that the children can climb through and explore, and interactive videos and stations where children learn about the animals who live in trees. There’s an under-the-ocean exhibit, a place where kids can pretend they are archeologists digging for artifacts and a virtual waterfall. There are real animals on display too.

Fernbank NatureQuest is an awesome hands-on area for kids.

Giant Treehouse

Under the Ocean exhibit at Fernbank NatureQuest

We were also able to explore some areas of the museum that we didn’t get to see on previous visits.  Reflections of Culture wasn’t interesting to the young boys, but my husband and I enjoyed this room filled with clothes from many different cultures around the world, including jewelry and body art.

World of Shells is a small room showcasing shells from the Georgia coast and around the world. Everyone has collected shells, but I bet you’ve never seen such a variety of big and impressive shells as this.

The shells were so beautiful!

Sensing Nature is an exhibit that “playfully demonstrates the role of our senses in interpreting our environment.” Think of it as a room full of sensory illusions. It was a little above the heads of my children (and me too sometimes), but we had fun exploring this room.

As usual when we visit a big museum, we don’t try to see every exhibit they have.  We didn’t see A Walk Through Time in Georgia this time, and we also skipped Conveyed in Clay: Stories from St. Catherines Island, which showcases Native American pottery, culture and history.

Let’s all roar like a dinosaur! Oh please, Daddy.

The Fernbank usually has temporary exhibits that you can learn about on their website. I recommend the IMAX theatre too. This was our first time seeing a movie in it, and it was great fun. The “Age of Titans” is no longer showing, but now they have Penquins and another show titled Hidden Universe where you can take a tour of deep space!

Visiting the museum and seeing a show in the IMAX theatre isn’t cheap for a family of four, and as I’ve written before, we have taken advantage of family memberships to save money. Without a membership, admission price for adults is $17.50 and children 3-12 is $15.50.  Tickets to the IMAX is extra: adults $13 and children 3-12 $11.

The Fernbank is located at 767 Clifton Road, NE, Atlanta, GA, and you can view its website at www.fernbankmuseum.org.

I had to get a picture of my little scientist on his 7th birthday.

Been to any good museums lately?

September 12, 2013

Victoria Bryant State Park

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on September 11, 2013.

My family found another treasure. Victoria Bryant State Park is located in Franklin County, and what captured my heart was the stream that flows through the park. Though it’s called a “stream” on the park’s pamphlet, Rice Creek looked like an easy-going river to me.

There’s nothing I love more than running water, especially when my bare feet are in it. Imagine the crystal clear water pouring over large stones with green branches arching overhead. Unidentified wildflowers bloomed in the crevices along its bank. A scene like this is the reason I moved to Georgia in the first place.

There are four different hiking trails of varying lengths in the park.  Since we had the little ones, we picked the short ½-mile trail named “Victoria’s Path.” It looped around a section of Rice Creek. The trail was pretty with thick foliage that threatened to smother the trail, and it showed signs of being flooded during our summer rains. We were surprised to find a thick grove of native bamboo trees. We also spied mushrooms, Christmas fern, and wild ginger.

According to their website, the park is 502 acres and offers 27 tent, trailer, and RV campsites. There are 8 platform, walk-in tent sites, and 2 pioneer group campgrounds.  There are 8 miles of hiking and bicycling trails, 2 ponds for fishing (private boats allowed; electric motors only; no boat ramp), an 18-hole golf course, a swimming pool, three playgrounds, archery range, nature center and more.

We saw a group of people who were having a party in a picnic shelter, and nearby the children were tubing down some rocks in the river. We need to check that out next time.

We only saw a small section of the park, but that’s because we were satisfied with the first place we came to at the stream. There was no big drop off from the shore, so I wasn’t worried about my boys falling in. While they gathered stones to throw, I took my shoes off and waded into a stream for the first time in years. My husband soon followed.

After that we drove a short distance to find Victoria’s Path, and the boys were thrilled that the paved road went through the stream. (I guess someone didn’t see the need to build a bridge.) After our hike we had a picnic at some tables overlooking the river, and we watched as other cars drove through the river. If you like taking pictures of your car, it makes a nice photo op.

While we were eating, we enjoyed watching a family of deer graze on a hill overlooking us, and we also took advantage of the large porch-like swing by the river. I could have sat there all day.

We went on a Saturday, and the park was quiet with few other people around. If you go, you might like to pack a lunch, but it’s not necessary. There are plenty of restaurants in nearby Royston, and there’s a McDonald’s one mile from the park’s entrance.

For directions and more information, go to the park’s website at www.gastateparks.org/VictoriaBryant.

August 22, 2013

Tellus Science Museum

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on August 21, 2013.

The Tellus Science Museum must be one of Georgia’s best kept secrets. I was surprised when I found out there was such a cool science museum in Cartersville, Georgia. My family decided to check it out last weekend. It took us one and a half hours to drive there, but we weren’t disappointed.

We like it better than the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta. Beautifully sculpted grounds surround the Tellus Museum. There are trees lining the driveway, and the building is modern but attractive. Parking was free and easy, and I’m impressed that someone thought to put a bathroom on the building with a door facing the parking lot. Also next to the parking lot is a heavy machinery exhibit that most little boys are going to love.

Inside the museum, there’s a life-size cast of an Apatosaurus, and surrounding it are the four main exhibit halls: the Weinman Mineral Gallery, the Fossil Gallery, Science in Motion, and the Collins Family My Big Backyard Exhibit, which is full of hands-on science activities for children. There’s also a planetarium, and shows start every 45 minutes. Another theater at the museum is used during special events.

The Weinman Mineral Gallery is quite breathtaking, especially if you have an interest in geology. I was quite taken with the periodic table, which covers a wall, and each element has a small window so that you can see a visual representation of it.  According to their website, the Tellus Museum is an expansion of the old Weinman Mineral Museum.

The fossil gallery isn’t huge, but it’s attractive, and the boys loved to see the life-size casts of several of their favorite prehistoric animals, including a T-rex, elasmosaurus, and the reconstruction of a megalodon’s mouth using real teeth.  The museum owns at least one real bone from each creature, and it was displayed next to the cast in a glass case.  There were also many smaller, real fossils on display that captivated my husband and me.

The Science in Motion gallery showcases “100 years worth of changes in transportation technology.” My favorite part was a life-size replica of the Wright Brother’s first airplane. There are old cars, parts of aircraft, spacecraft and models of the NASA space rockets, which was fun for my six-year-old to see since he made a model of the Saturn V this past year.

The museum has several impressive paintings of moon landings, shuttle take-offs and other science-related artwork that I thought was a nice touch.

You could easily explore the whole museum in an afternoon, but since we had small children and weren’t familiar with the area, we only went to these four main exhibits and toured a solar house, which is on display outside. We missed the opportunity to let our kids dig for fossils and pan for gems, but we’ll definitely go back someday, and we also hope to see a planetarium show.

If this isn’t enough, there’s also an observatory with a 20” telescope, which visitors can tour during special events!

If you go, we can recommend stopping at John Boy’s Home Cooking, which is located at 904 Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Cartersville. It has an all-you-can-eat country buffet, and we even found a few items that our picky children would eat.

If you’re not familiar with the area, I suggest you spend a little time on Google maps getting the lay of the land. The museum is located right off I-75 North. We took exit 293 to go to the museum, but after spending too much time driving around, we discovered there are more restaurant options off the two exits before that.

The Tellus Science Museum is located at 100 Tellus Drive, Cartersville, Georgia 30120. General admission is $14 per adult and $10 for children ages 3-17. A planetarium show is $3.50.  See tellusmuseum.org for more information.

Have you been to this museum? What was your experience like?

August 15, 2013

You Can Save Money With Family Memberships

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on August 14, 2013.

If you and your family enjoy going to a particular venue, it makes sense to purchase a family membership. As our children get older and their interests flourish, it’s our goal to be able to take them places where they can have hands-on experiences.  I was skeptical at first, but family memberships have saved us a lot of money.

We can’t afford to get a membership to every venue, so we decided to choose just one or two each year, according to our children’s interests. When my eldest son was four, he was crazy about ocean animals, so we wanted to take him to the Georgia Aquarium.

At that time, the admission price at the Aquarium for an adult was about $27. According to their website, it’s now $34.95, and a ticket for a child is $28.95. Add parking, and that’s an incredibly expensive day for a family of four.

We waited until we had relatives in town to make it a special occasion, and we used coupons, which saved us money, but finally we spoke to someone about a membership. I was worried we wouldn’t take advantage of it, but we did, and that year, we went several times.

What makes memberships especially worthy are their reciprocal programs. For example, last year when we were visiting family in Chicago, we took our boys to the Field Museum, and for only $30 over our admission price, we purchased a family membership. We did this because through the reciprocal program, we get free admission to five different museums and science centers in Georgia.

The tricky thing about reciprocal programs is that there are restrictions on their reciprocal programs. For example, if we had gotten a membership to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, our benefits would not apply to any institution within a 90-mile radius. That means we could not get free membership to the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, GA or The Museum of Arts and Science in Macon, GA.

Since our membership is with the Field Museum in Chicago, we have benefits in both the Fernbank Museum of Natural History and the Tellus Science Museum. We’ve already visited both of those places, so it has more than paid for our membership fee. We also had to take an unexpected trip to Chicago this summer to help some family members, so while we were there, we went back to the Field Museum for free, and our benefits allowed us to bring some guests for free too.

Our relatively inexpensive family membership to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, which we got in order to save money on their educational programs, paid the $25 parking fee at the Chicago Botanical Garden. This made it an even sweeter experience to watch my sons holding the butterflies in their awesome butterfly habitat.

If you travel, even to nearby states, you should consider getting your memberships there so that you can take advantage of these reciprocal programs. You’ll need to do some research to find out what they cost and if you could benefit from them.

Most of these places are big, and it’s hard to enjoy them on one visit. It’s also a disappointment when we visit on a crowded day. By having memberships, we relax when we go because we know we’ll go again. Our children get the extra benefit of learning about a place and feeling at home there. There are always new things to discover, and that’s the best part of going to these wonderful places.

Psst! Be sure to read the comments below. My readers have left some other awesome tips. And while researching this column, I found this page about saving money at the Georgia Aquarium. Remember that you can get memberships at zoos, children museums, and nature centers too!

Next week I’ll share our experience at the Tellus Science Museum.

July 13, 2013

The Chicago Botanical Garden Butterfly Habitat

On our recent journey to Chicago to help my in-laws in an unfortunate circumstance, we took a couple of days to go out and do something fun. One of our favorite places is the Chicago Botanical Garden. We went last year when we were in Chicago visiting our relatives, and it was nice to go back feeling like we didn’t need to see everything. It’s a huge garden. One of our favorite spots within the garden is the butterfly habitat, and this year, especially, it seemed like a fitting celebratory ending to our experience raising Painted Lady Butterflies this spring. We spent a long, leisurely time in the habitat this year, and I was so excited knowing that my six-year-old fully understood the butterfly life cycle and because of that, it had more meaning for him.

I thought you might enjoy the photos I took of some of the butterflies in the habitat. The photographer in me was so delighted with my subjects.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

January 24, 2013

Hard Labor Creek State Park

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on January 23, 2013.

If you want to take advantage of the warm spells we get during the winter in Georgia, one place I recommend going is Hard Labor Creek State Park. We visited there for the first time this past fall (early November) when the leaves were gold and just falling from the trees, and we wondered why we had never gone to this beautiful park before.

It’s located about 30 miles south of Winder in Morgan and Walton counties, and at 5,804 acres, it’s one of the largest state parks in Georgia. It boasts an 18-hole golf course as well as two lakes, camping, cottage rentals, swimming, horse trails, hiking trails and much more.

The park has a rich history.  Before the establishment of the park, the land was made up of corn and cotton fields, and due to poor land-use practices, it was not very productive.  During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a part of his New Deal program. The purpose of CCC was to create recreational areas while also teaching young men new skills and trades.

Between 1934 -1939, there were two CCC camps at Hard Labor Creek, and they together with the U.S. Forestry service built the park. You can still see many of their original structures and landscapes today, including Lake Rutledge.  They also cultivated over 850,000 trees!

My favorite outdoor activity is hiking, and the day we were there, I was determined to walk at least a moderate trail, so I coaxed my family onto the 1-mile Brantley Trail that took us on a tour of some of the beautiful trees that the CCC planted.

Now the trees are mature, and according to a leaflet we found at the beginning of the path, we walked under a canopy of loblolly pines and sweetgum trees, and we also spied white oak, river birch, hickories, red maples, and blackjack oak.

We skedaddled past this tree.

Here you can see how the area is still recovering from the farming.  In the late 1800s, “the upland forest in this area of the piedmont was almost completely stripped for timber and agricultural lands.”  However, it was too steep to farm along the streams, so there you’ll find taller, larger hardwoods.  If you look at “the upslope trees,” you see they are smaller, and there’s more pines and sweetgum.

When we were there this fall, hiking with a six-year-old and three-year-old still required a great deal of patience.  My three-year-old graced us with his first temper tantrum in the middle of the forest, and I couldn’t help but wonder if a child screams in a forest and no one is around to hear it… Ah, well, unfortunately, we were there, and yes, it was quite loud.  But it passed as all things do, and we had a pleasant walk. We also strolled over to the lake, and it offered some beautiful scenery.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps and Hard Labor Creek State Park, you might join one of several Historic Wagon Ride Tours offered in February, or perhaps you’d prefer Fireside Stories told by a retired park ranger who, according to the park’s website, has a passion for CCC history.  Go to http://www.gastateparks.org/HardLaborCreek for more information on these and other events at the park.

Where’s your favorite outdoor recreation area?

December 10, 2012

The North Atlanta Gem, Mineral, Fossil, & Jewelry Show

This weekend my family and I went to check out The North Atlanta Gem, Mineral, Fossil & Jewelry Show.  I’m so grateful to “Pamela” who took the time to write about it on a local homeschool list last week. When I saw her message, I thought this was something my boys would love, and luckily, the price was right!  It is only $4.00 admission for adults, and children under 16 are free.  We are also lucky that the trade center is only about an hour drive away.

If you’re sad that you missed this show, you’ll be happy to know it’s an annual event.

I think we’ll be going back!  Here are some (not-so-good) snapshots I got at the event. Needless to say, it’s hard to take photographs when you’re trying to rescue fragile items from the clutches of a three-year-old.

A leg bone of a triceratops. The man who found it allowed our boys to touch it!

Those strange things in the middle are dinosaur eggs!

We love shark teeth since we acquired our own collection while visiting Amelia Island this summer.

That’s just too cool.

The three-year-old HAS to touch, touch, touch. He’s just wired that way.

The six-year-old wants one of these.

So much treasure!

Admiring a woolly mammoth’s tusk.

The highlight of the day: the six-year-old picked out an almost fossilized tibia bone of a bison that’s between 11-15,000 years old to call his own!

Have you been on any field trips lately?  Please tell me about it.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 280 other followers

%d bloggers like this: