Dauset Trails Nature Center

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on January 20, 2016.

If you feel like an adventure, consider a drive down to Jackson, Georgia to explore Dauset Trails Nature Center, a private, non-profit center whose mission is to provide environmental education, outdoor recreation and an understanding of early farm life. It has 1400 acres of woods, fields, creeks and lakes, and it includes live animal exihibits, gardens, hiking, biking and horseback trails. Admission is free.

We took a day over the holidays to go down and see this place that we had heard about at a local nature center event. It was well worth the effort because Dauset Trails is beautiful and peaceful, and it offers so much to see.

The animal trail reminded me a little of Bear Hollow Zoo in Athens, and my boys loved viewing the wild animals such as the bald eagle who cried out to us, owls, hawks, otters, a cougar, bear, coyotes, a bison and more. All of these animals are non-releasable, and they have been either injured or orphaned.

Dauset also has a barnyard exhibit with chickens, pigs, cows, goats, a mule and a donkey. We walked through a barn and could see the smoke house, country store, blacksmith shop and other buildings, which I believe are used for events. On the day we were there, we had the place almost to ourselves.

Below the visitor’s center is a kind of classroom/reptile house where we found live turtles, alligators and snakes. Right outside the nature center, you can sit on the porch and watch the songbirds coming and going from the feeders – we had never seen so many different birds all at once. We spied chickadees, titmice, cardinals, bluebirds and two or three woodpeckers!

Behind the visitor’s center is a small lake, and you can walk over the bridge and purchase a handful of food (bring some quarters) to feed the fish and ducks, though there were no ducks the day we were there.

After walking the animal trail, seeing the barnyard animals, and walking through some of the gardens, we were too tired to hit a hiking trail, so we hope to go back someday.

I was impressed to learn that Dauset Trails was the dream of Hampton Daughtry, a man who had played as a boy in the woods where we walked. When he grew up, he made his fortune in the textile industry, and when he returned to his home, he put much of his money into the community. He was a big supporter of the Boy Scouts and youth recreational programs.

He and his friend, David Settle, dreamed of providing a place where people could learn about and enjoy nature without disturbance. Much of the land in Dauset Trails belonged to them, and the name “Dauset” was created by combining parts of their names. Mr. Daughtry is buried on the property in the Memorial Garden.

There is no food available at the center, but there is a drink machine and picnic tables. Camping areas are available for organized groups only and require a reservation. Facility rentals are available for special events. It is open Monday-Saturday 9-5 and Sunday 12-5. (No admittance one hour before closing.) See dausettrails.com for more information.


Natural History Museum at Georgia College

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal in October 2015.

If you have young children, they may not be old enough to appreciate Georgia’s history or the beautiful homes you can tour along the Antebellum Trail, but you may be able to sneak some of that in on a day trip to the Natural History Museum at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville. Our boys love fossils, so we spent a long time in this small museum, and then we enjoyed exploring the beautiful campus and viewed some of the historical buildings too.

The Natural History Museum is only a 2,500-square-foot room in Herty Hall, but it is jam-packed with fossils and exhibits that will teach you about ancient life forms. Georgia College holds one of the largest repositories of fossils in the southeast, covering the last 500 million years, and it’s the official repository for National Park Service specimens too. Though small, there’s still enough to keep you busy for well over an hour as you slowly make your way around the room.

My boys are excited about seeing any kind of fossil or bones, but some of the highlights were the large cephalopods, a crinoid and trilobites. There was a fossil of a large amphibian from the late Triassic found in Poland that looked similar to an alligator’s head. The fossil of a dinosaur egg was pretty cool, and a skeleton of a Smilodon, or saber-toothed cat, was a favorite.

After the museum, we walked to the Ennis Hall, the Department of Art, hoping to check out an art exhibit, but at that time, they were between art shows. We still had fun checking out the beautiful, old antebellum buildings that have been turned into office buildings and classroom space. The main part of campus has a large green area with beautiful trees to walk under.

We stopped by the Old Governor’s Mansion, which was the home of eight governors, their families, slaves and free servants from 1839-1868 when Milledgeville was the state capital of Georgia. (The capital moved to Atlanta in 1868 due to Atlanta’s superior rail service.) During the Civil War, General William T. Sherman’s army captured the mansion, and it served as his headquarters. Now it’s a museum, and you can take tours there too, but we didn’t think our young boys would be patient enough for that, so we just enjoyed walking around the block and checking out the gardens.

Downtown Milledgeville is also within walking distance. It’s quaint, and it has plenty of shops to peruse. We found some old comic books in an antique store that has kick started my nine-year-old’s enjoyment of reading silently to himself. (Score!) We even found a restaurant that served food my picky eaters would eat too.

Since it’s only two hours away, Milledgeville makes a lovely day trip. You can go for the fossils, or the history, or just a lovely stroll down some beautiful streets.

Find out more about the natural history museum at this website: http://www.gcsu.edu/nhm. It’s free and open to the public from 8a.m. to 4p.m. Monday through Friday. There is free 2-hour parking outside the building, which will give you plenty of time to see the exhibits. Large groups can make reservations for a tour.

The Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon, Georgia

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on April 23, 2014.

Last week my family ventured down to Macon to visit the Museum of Arts and Sciences. This is the only museum in Georgia that focuses on art and science, and we had a fun time checking it out.

The main brick building is set on fourteen acres of beautiful wooded land with trails and several outbuildings. There are permanent exhibitions, including a three-story “Discovery House” for children and a mini-zoo. In the Discovery House, the boys and I enjoyed looking at their beautiful collection of butterflies, shells, arrowheads and other treasures. There was pottery, artwork and a collection of ship models that must have taken years to put together.

The Discovery House is very interactive for kids too. There were places where the boys could have created some artwork, but they preferred to dig for fossils. They had a blast in the Light Box, and we also had fun pretending we were weather forecasters, standing in front of a green screen and seeing our images on a screen with a weather map behind us.

The mini-zoo is small, but it contains more than seventy animals, including amphibians, birds, invertebrates, mammals and reptiles. This made my snake loving seven-year-old very happy. We were also able to catch part of a live animal show, which is a regular feature of the museum, and afterward my boys got to touch some of the animals.

The art exhibits were more appealing to my husband and me, but luckily the boys didn’t rush us too much. We especially enjoyed their large display of antique quilts, which is a temporary exhibit. Many of them were from Georgia quilt makers, and the details and craftsmanship were incredible.

By far our favorite part of the museum was its planetarium. We have been to two other planetariums, and this was the best. After reading the museum’s website, I understand why.

In 2012, the museum became one of the few planetariums in the world to install the Konica Minolta Super MediaGlobe II, which is “the highest-resolution and brightest, single-projector digital planetarium available today.” This museum is the first to install this system in Georgia and only the third in the Americas. The resolution is supposed to be four times higher than of the best HDTV images – that’s impressive.

It was worth the drive just to see the two shows we attended. They were under thirty minutes each, but they were stunning, beautiful and very educational. I learned so much in such a short amount of time! Each show included some animation, so they were entertaining for the children as well.

My four-year-old got scared in the opening of the first show we saw, titled “Stars.” Later we were told that this show was the most intense. It begins as the camera moves in on a star, and my son had never experienced such a huge screen that encompassed our entire vision before. Later he told me that he thought we were all going to be swallowed! That is definitely the feeling you get as you sit under that huge dome and the “star” is moving toward you. I thought I was going to have to leave with him, but I calmed him down and he enjoyed the rest of the show. By the second show, he was an old pro.

If you would like to visit the museum, it is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10-5pm and Sunday 1-5pm. It is closed on Mondays. The admission price is very reasonable and includes all the exhibitions, mini-zoo, discovery house and the planetarium. It’s $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and military, $7 for students, $5 for children, and children under 3 are free.

It took us about two hours to drive there. For directions, be sure to check the map on the museum’s website. When we got near the facility, we discovered that the directions from Google maps had one mistake. (We never found a Hall Road. Use Wimbish Road instead.) The website is www.masmacon.org.

The Georgia Museum of Art

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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.


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.

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.

Gift Ideas for Home Educators

Someone’s first Christmas

{Gift Ideas for Children} {Gift Ideas for Homeschoolers} {Gift Ideas for Anyone!}

This is a post I wrote two years ago. I thought it might help you (and me) as we get ready for this holiday, gift-giving season! I have added a few resources & checked all the links. Enjoy!


Do you have homeschooled children on your gift list this holiday season?  Or some precocious children who love to learn?

Homeschooling can be expensive or inexpensive, depending on how much parents decide to invest in it.  Curriculums can cost a pretty penny, but a lot of homeschoolers do without and use materials that they can find at the library or in thrift stores.

Still, the best way to get a child to learn is to lay some interesting materials around the house – a book on the coffee table, art supplies in an accessible bin, a game on a low shelf.  If they think that they are discovering it themselves, they are more likely to want to know all about it!  So homeschoolers will appreciate any extra help they can get to offer fun, educational tools to their children.

Here are some ideas they might love:

  • Art Supplies – I’m not talking about crayons and markers that you can buy at any grocery store (though kids love and need those too), but real art supplies that you can buy at art stores can make a wonderful gift.
  • Ask what they need – You may just want to ask what they need.  Do you know what kind of teaching method they are using?  You may find a store that specializes in it.  In addition, for homeschooling families who purchase curriculum, they may appreciate it if you could chip in on the cost because some curriculums can be quite expensive.  Or perhaps there are certain books or other resources they want but aren’t able to afford.
  • Let’s not forget books, especially if there’s a subject the children are interested in or studying.  And remember, gift certificates will be appreciated too!

Here are some cool online stores that may help you find that perfect gift. They are in no particular order.

Are you a homeschooler with a wish list?  Please tell me what you would like to receive for gifts this year! Or do you know of another cool place to buy educational items?  Do you make them yourself?  Let me know!

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?