Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Saturday is Spring Family Fun Day
By Crystal Cotton
Do you recall those days of playing in the woods, collecting rocks, going on wild insect hunts, and making dandelion jewelry?
Well, perhaps you can get back to this during Duke Gardens’ Family Fun Day on Saturday. The point of this day is to enjoy nature and learn more about it through science-themed activity stations.
Kids and their families may work together to build fairy houses, concoct gel slime, make volcanoes in a bottle, paint with plants, dissect lima beans and see how plants can grow in a plastic glove. Families may also join the Great Fish Release, in which they’ll put the first fish into the newly refurbished fish pool at the foot of the Terrace Gardens.
Part of Family Fun Day’s mission is to encourage families to bring their children closer to nature in their everyday life. That’s something that Stefan Bloodworth, curator of the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, focuses on often with his own family.
In Bloodworth’s house they have “screen-free Sundays,” in which using screens of any sort – from television to computers – is forbidden.
“It’s just a time for the family to be together and get back to nature,” he says.
“When the kids know those other distractions aren’t an option,” he says, “that’s when they start looking for things to do.”
Simply by starting with amphibians and insects, he says, you can begin to explain exactly how dependent a frog is on all of these other little pieces of its environment.
“Keep it simple, keep it interesting, and then really challenge them to make connections in their own brains,” he suggests.
An event like Family Fun Day can be helpful for parents who may have difficulty getting their kids outside and playing.
Durham mother Catherine Clabby likes her 12-year-old daughter to get outside and have fun because “it’s real free play.” Being outside allows kids to move their bodies and release energy, she says. “It just calms everybody down.”
“The Gardens are so great because it’s a refuge where you can come and walk and just be enveloped by all the beautiful plant life,” she says. “It’s just a place to go and relax.”
Participating in the Duke Gardens Family Fun Day could be the start of a whole new family adventure full of hiking, biking and becoming more familiar with our natural surroundings.
Family Fun Day will be Saturday, May 28, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information about that and other nature-focused events, including summer day camp, please go to gardens.duke.edu or call 668-1707.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens creates and nurtures an environment in the heart of Duke University for learning, inspiration and enjoyment through excellence in horticulture. The Gardens is at 420 Anderson St.
Crystal Cotton is a junior at N.C. Central University and a communications intern at Duke Gardens. This column first appeared in the May 21 Herald-Sun.