Once a month, our local Natural History Museum puts on a Family Day. Each family day consists of several hands-on experiments, activities, and art projects that all center on the day’s particular focus. Today’s focus was Dogs.
Today my boys watched a demonstration of dog agility put on by the local Humane Society. They learned about how dogs use body language to communicate, and made their own dog ears and tail so that they too could communicate like a dog. They explored the skeletons and pelts of some of dogs’ wild relatives (foxes, coyotes, and wolves). They heard Native American stories about these animals and made puppets to act out the legends. They were able to design their own dog breed by combining paper representations of various dog parts from different breeds (e.g., choose a fluffy tail, a flat tail, a long tail, a short tail, etc.). Plus they did several other fun and educational things.
Some tidbit from a Family Day frequently sparks my older son’s curiosity (my toddler is curious about everything, but doesn’t yet articulate specific questions well), and leads us to pursue further information. I often find that we’re at the library a day or two after Family Day looking up books about a particular topic so that we can learn more. Thus, Family Day is a great launching pad for spontaneous unit studies within our home. (In case you don’t know, a unit study is where we do all sorts of work, integrating lots of different “school subjects,” while learning about a particular topic. In this example, the unit we choose to further explore might be about dogs, or animal communication, or the evolving relationships between humans and other animals.)
My kids had so much fun, and they learned some new things about dogs as they explored. These Family Days really a fantastic community resource. And get this, not only is this resource free of charge (we left a small donation in their donation box), but they are rarely crowded. Often, my boys are at stations all by themselves, and get the full attention of the museum volunteers. Let me say this again: our local Natural Museum is offering free high-quality, hands-on learning activities during which my kids typically get one-on-one instruction. Amazing!
This is really a tremendous opportunity for any child, and I encourage you to look into whether such programs are offered in your community.