Every Wednesday during the summer we attend the Austin's Symphony Children's Day Art Park. This year the location will be the same as last year: the Austin Central Library. All our favorite local musicians, storytellers and craft people will be there! Kids are able to interact with the performing arts. There is even an instrument zoo!
After the concerts there are other art-related activities that change every week. We do coloring, storytelling, arts and crafts. There is going to be an interactive percussion station and instrument making as well!
Their performance schedule is already up at their website. Shows will start on June 5th and end on July 24th so you have plenty of weeks to chose. We usually do that as our first activity on Wednesdays followed by a picnic lunch and then off to our next adventure!
Visiting a museum is as close as you can get to the real thing. Sometimes, that museum IS the real thing. A couple of local examples are the Elisabet Ney Museum which used to be her home and studio, and the Texas State Capitol where a lot of history has been written. Other example around the area is the Alamo. Hearing about Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin will never be quite like staring at their statues at the Capitol’s entrance.
Kids are very receptive of stories. That’s one of the ways they learn about their society and its many rules. Introducing history as a series of true stories has much more value than all the facts you can throw at them. Remember history is there to teach us how to be better. Try to involve children whenever you are teaching them history. Being able to relate to situations and values helps them remember better.
One of the best ways they can relate to things is by visiting places that are filled with history. Whenever we visit the Texas State Cemetery they are much more receptive to information about various heroes and events. Visiting places such as the Austin City Hall and other local sources of history can help them develop identity! It also shows models of good and responsible citizenship, creating better and more engaged adults.
Our city is changing so fast that we can take advantage of it by showing it to kids. It’s hard to understand big and slow changes without being aware of small ones. By walking around the city and watching it change, kids can understand history and consequences a little better. What a better way to learn this blast to the past than attending one of our Texas Weeks! We will visit all of the above mentioned places and more!
Last year I wrote about how visiting the Texas School for the Blind and the Visually Impaired impacted our children. They started realizing how the way our city was laid out affected people who couldn't see. This change in their world will happen whenever they are introduced to diversity.
One of the many benefits of traveling by bus is that you meet different people. Children are submerged in the city culture all day long. Then, through guided field trips we make sure to build a bridge between "us" and "them". That's what this city is about!
Join us on our Diversity week where we'll visit places such as: Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the George Washington Carver Museum, The African American Heritage Center, the Central Texas Food Bank, Urban Roots Farm, Mexican American Cultural Center, Mexic-arte Museum among others.
Learning about diversity can start with very small things. You could serve ethnic foods once in a while and talk about where they come from. There are also tons of books that teach about different cultures. Of course if it's a possibility, meet people from all backgrounds!
Most kids that attend ATX Kids Club have never taken a city bus. Most of them know buses as "those yellow school buses". Few have commuted or taken Cap Metro City buses. Every one of them soon realizes that it's the best way to ride!
We always take the bus to our city adventures! We want every kid to be able to know where they are and to learn how to move around the city. It's even better now because kids ride free! Our four parks are conveniently located close to a bus stop so that we can take one or two buses to most of our destinations. You don't have to be an expert to do it.
The easiest way if you own a smartphone is to download the CapMetro app. You can use the trip planner or check specific schedules. Every bus stop has a QR Code that let's you know if your bus is delayed. Most buses have route maps available for free. Kids enjoy trying to figure out where they are going next either looking at the screen or at the map.
When we are downtown and take the bus, there is hardly a rush hour. Kids feel really proud and special when they notice the Bus Only lanes. Who wouldn't feel like that as the bus passes all those cars stuck in the traffic jam. Especially when there's AC and they can read or draw while taking the bus.
As a commuter that lives in North Austin, I vastly prefer driving to a park and ride and taking a bus or the train downtown than having to deal with my car when I am there. I know there is still a long way to go to make this city fully connected, but using what we currently have is a first step towards pushing it in the right direction! So take the leap, try transit.
Take nature as a source of inspiration for those arty kids! A small hike can help them be more creative. There are tons of patterns in nature. Finding them is an activity most kids enjoy. They'll even forget they didn't want to walk in the first place!
Once they have soaked in nature it's time for creating art. Some options include: drawing something they liked. Using parts of nature to paint (such as feathers, leafs and stones) or to sculpt. They can also find nice color palettes created by nature to use on their coloring books. If the walk allows it, you can even stop for quick sketches along the way!
During summer camp we encourage kids to bring a notebook and pencils. We sketch after hikes, during bus rides and at the library sometimes. Even when it's not Art week, we mix it in the fun!
Whenever we are doing a nature walk we have one or two kids that keep wondering what’s the point. We tell them that it’s a great way to get air to their brain, make their arms and legs strong and we are getting to know a new place. By the end of the week we see big changes in attitudes towards exercise!
This article quotes many more benefits of getting out and about which relate to the reasons we give our own kids. Getting more air to the brain has lasting effects that can benefit them year round. Kids who go outside have better school performance as they have better cognitive functions. They are more creative as playing outside nurtures imagination. They are also less likely to be depressed or hyperactive as it increases their attention span and they make more friends. Creating the habit to explore outside can lead to a longer life span as they are more likely to grow into active adults!Children who spend time in nature have stronger bones, better eyesight and are overall more fit. They get more vitamin D while playing outdoors.
We would add that children who play outdoors are more aware and committed to their world. They see animals struggle, they see all kinds of people and they become sensitive to nature. What more can you ask? Nature is the real deal!
Some of the best memories of our school years come from field trips, we remember how fun they were. They are so much more than fun as it turns out they can be one of the best ways to learn! Field Trips are meant to be educational by exposing children to experiences that connect to ideas, concepts and subject matter. That first hand experience stimulates interest and retention of concepts. To this relation between experience and concepts we like to add the community dimension.
When we created the themes for our summer camp weeks we were thinking how we could enhance the authentic, first-hand, sensory-based learning that is gained through field trips. Austin’s core is nature, art and technology but it also has a rich history and diversity. What we expect from kids is that by associating what they learn with their own experiences and what they see in their communities, they can begin to develop the capacity to contribute to their community. This is one of the goals of the Association for Experiential Education which explores the education that comes from outside a classroom.
Some other benefits of field trips are the sharpening of observation and perception skills by utilizing their senses. A more positive attitude for learning and creating connections. Field Trips also develop interest in the outdoors and empower students to ask questions, discuss observations and consider past experiences. Field trips remove the competitive factor and the stress of a classroom. Some studies have discovered that whatever is learned through field trips is remembered better than whatever is studied in a formal setting. Even so, field trips have become less common due to limited funding and available time year round. That’s why programs such as ATX Kids Club are important to have around. Who wouldn’t want a field trip every day!
We recently shared a post on how to hook kids on the great outdoors published in the march edition of the Nature conservancy magazine. It quotes an article in the UK that found out that the average child spends less time outdoors than the average prisoner. Most of those hours are spent in front of a screen. Part of the reason seems to be that kids don’t want to be outside but it’s all matter of habit.
Children are very eager to be challenged and to discover new things. These are easily achievable by video games, but nature can offer even better rewards. “In my experience, youth today want the same things we wanted as children: real adventure and the opportunity to discover the world around them”, writes the author of the blog. It is true that it’s getting harder to find programs that connect kids to nature but that’s what ATX Kids Club is all about!
Austin still has some amazing nature pockets within minutes of the city. The more we make use of them, the more the government will realize the need for such spaces and keep funding them. We make use of the trails and parks as part of our weekly programs. Many of our kids have travelled through Cesar Chavez Street and fewer have set foot on the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike trail just across the street.
This summer, plan for skill summer camps, but remember the importance of urban and nature camps as well. Let’s get our kids outside!
This week we celebrate the International Women’s Day! It is all about the movement for women’s rights. In the United States it began in New York after a protest by women who made clothes for a living. What initially was a plea for better work conditions has become a fight for equality. The United Nations has given a yearly theme to women’s day for some time now. This year’s theme is Rural and Urban activists transforming women’s lives.