Saturday, March 21, 2020

Save Salamanders While Social Distancing

Posted By on Sat, Mar 21, 2020 at 9:05 AM

  • North Branch Nature Center
On these wet spring nights, amphibians seek vernal pools to mate and lay eggs. But crossing roads is a dangerous business for hopping frogs and slithering salamanders. Volunteer “crossing guards” often spend evenings helping migrating critters to safety. Luckily for at-home families, saving our water-loving wildlife is a perfect social distancing activity. As an added bonus, it’s fun and educational.

Some families may simply want to explore on a spring night. For those families who want to collect and submit data about Vermont’s wildlife, as well, the North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier has detailed information about how to get started.

Its website includes:
• A local map of amphibian crossing areas
• A volunteer manual
• Videos
• How to gather and submit data
• How to send in photos

Gear you need:
• Rain clothes and boots
• Reflective clothes, such as a vest
• Flashlights and extra batteries
• A spatula and a clean bucket
• Waterproof clipboard, data sheet and pencil
• Camera
• Crossing signs with flashing lights

In 2018, Kids Vermont wrote about Middlesex writer and educator Katy Farber’s picture book, Salamander Spring. It combines science, simple directions and a sweet story about a mother and daughter who help spotted salamanders cross a dirt road. If your local bookstore is open, see if they have a copy.

Last spring, Heather Fitzgerald wrote an essay for Kids Vermont about“a particularly ungraceful April night” when she and her 5-year-old son went searching for frogs and salamanders. As parents in a rapidly changing world, we’re all redefining our roles right now. Fitzgerald’s story reminds us to embrace our kids' imagination — and let go of our desires for perfection.

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Friday, March 20, 2020

Learning in the Time of Coronavirus: Virtual Tours and Animal Webcams

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2020 at 11:06 AM

Jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium - DREAMSTIME
  • Dreamstime
  • Jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
In our digital world, visiting a museum, zoo or aquarium is just a click away. Check out these sites offering virtual tours and animal webcams.

  • Watch a video about Impressionist artist Claude Monet's garden here.

  • Virtually visit the Gervais Family Farm in Enosburg Falls to learn how farmers take care of their cows here.

  • The National Aquarium in Baltimore offers live streams of its Blacktip Reefs, Jellies Invasion and Pacific Coral Reef on its website.

  • At the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, biologists are taking lessons online. They host a daily virtual classroom on Facebook Live at 11 a.m. Metroparks naturalists go live at 1 p.m.

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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Learning in the Time of Coronavirus: Keep Moving

Posted By , and on Thu, Mar 19, 2020 at 2:15 PM

  • Courtesy of Nicci Micco
Staying at home doesn’t mean you have to sit still — and with active children, chances are that's not an option. Dance classes, yoga classes and workouts will come to you. Here are several free options to get kids — and caregivers — moving for free.

• Virtual kids yoga classes via Zoom? Yep. Suzanne Brubaker, owner of Water and Rock Studio and local mom of two, is offering classes for kids, ages 5 to 10, to connect and interact with other kids while moving, breathing and having fun. Classes happen at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily, and cost $25 per week. Register here.  er:

• Local yoga studios including Evolution Prenatal & Family Yoga Center, Evolution Physical Therapy + Yoga, Yoga Roots, Queen City Yoga and Sangha Studio are offering online classes (these still cost but you'll be supporting local businesses that need it right now).

Cosmic Kids Yoga offers free yoga and mindfulness classes for kids ages 3 and up on YouTube. Yoga Adventures tell stories through poses that take kids into scenes from Harry Potter, Moana, Frozen, and Star Wars. Jaime’s Brain Breaks offer quick five-minute workouts. The Zen Den teaches mindfulness and anxiety-reducing breathing techniques. And Peace Out gives guided meditation, perfect for bedtime. Alo Yoga also offers free, short yoga and meditation classes for kids. Older kids might prefer the more grown-up tone at Yoga with Adriene.

  • Courtesy of Music for Sprouts
• Get your wiggles out with Mister Chris and Miss Emma of Music for Sprouts. They are doing live concerts on Facebook every weekday morning at 10 a.m. And join local musician Linda Bassick will host sing-alongs on Facebook.

• On Facebook, musicians Dan and Claudia Zanes post a daily Social Isolation singalong classic recorded in their home. This musical couple hopes their melodies will entertain the kids and remind the grownups that “these are trying times but we’re in this together.”

• Kindie rockstar Laurie Berkner hosts a Berkner Break most weekdays at 10 a.m. on Facebooks to raise spirits and get bodies stretching through singing, stories and movement.

• Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Suzi Shelton streams a live "Sing with Suzi" show weekdays at 4 p.m. and Saturday mornings at 11 a.m. Her vocals and acoustic guitar tunes focus on kindness and love.

• Lines Vermont, a dance studio in South Burlington, is offering some of their regular classes via Zoom and pre-recorded classes on the Line Vermont YouTube channel.

• Rock out to Vermont drummer Urian Hackney's cover of Nirvana's "Stay Away" — changed to "Stay Inside"  to reflect the times we're living in. Or have a kitchen dance party while listening to this music video about social distancing created by a Burlington family. 

Learning in the Time of Coronavirus: Digital Learning Resources

Posted By and on Thu, Mar 19, 2020 at 8:36 AM

  • Dreamstime
Supporting your children with at-home learning can mean relearning seventh grade science or 10th grade geometry yourself. And then, trying to keep it all fun and engaging. Help is just a click away!

• Need to brush up on polynomials? Free help is available for math, science, economics, history and more from the nonprofit Khan Academy. Many more resources to support kids of all ages have been compiled by Common Sense Media.

Scholastic Learn at Home is offering a free digital learning hub for kids Pre-K through ninth grade. The hub will provide up to three hours of learning opportunities per day for four weeks. Its “daily learning journeys” are divided into four grade spans, Pre-K— K, Grades 1 – 2, Grades 3 – 5, and Grades 6 – 9+, covering English language arts, STEM, science, social studies, and social-emotional learning.

• Find online math games and challenges at Greg Tang Math.

BrainPOP, a website with short, engaging educational videos is offering free access to families during school closures.

The New York Times Learning Network has a variety of online learning resource for older kids and teens, including a Lesson of the Day related to current events and a Film Club with short documentary films and discussion questions website with short, engaging educational videos is offering free access to families during school closures.

Wonderopolis is an educational site that answers user-submitted questions, from "Do birds get shocked when they sit on wires?" to "How did Starbucks start?" It includes vocabulary activities and quizzes related to each post.

• TIME for Kids has made its digital editions free for the remainder of the school year. There are four grade-specific versions, for K-1, 2, 3-4 and 5-6.

• Want to speak Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch or Japanese? Learn those languages and others for free at Duolingo.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Learning in the Time of Coronavirus: Vermont Venues Keep Trails Open, Offer Online Resources

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 2020 at 9:43 AM

Billings Farm is launching "Ask Billings Farm Live" on Facebook - BILLINGS FARM AND MUSEUM
  • Billings Farm and Museum
  • Billings Farm is launching "Ask Billings Farm Live" on Facebook
Vermont museums, educational centers and libraries have met the current social-distancing reality with free online classes, story times and learning resources. Although buildings are temporarily closed, many trail systems remain open. Remember to take breaks from screen time, and keep your family healthy with fresh air. Here are some Vermont venues offering online services:

• Burlington City Arts has created an online Home Studio featuring art and activities. For the next few weeks, new material will be posted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

• On Facebook, ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, is sharing suggestions for at-home science experiments and videos of animal feedings. Watch a Science & Stories story time here. Find simple science experiments created by ECHO in partnership with WCAX here.

• Beginning April 8th at 1 p.m., Billings Farm & Museum will launch "Ask Billings Farm Live," a Facebook Live series where viewers can ask questions of Billings Farm & Museum’s resident experts and learn more about the farm. Billings Farm at Home is a new online resource for young and old to explore Billings Farm and its history. Learn how the farm cares for its animals, find recipes and craft projects, and take virtual building tours.

Shelburne Farms’ scenic walking trails are open to the public. Check out the farm's Instagram page for cute videos from inside the barn.

• In Montpelier, North Branch Nature Center’s trails and wildlife preserve are open. All buildings, including bathrooms, are closed. "Getting outside in nature is one of the very best ways we can all be caring for ourselves and our loved ones right now," the center explains.

The trails are open at the Audubon in Huntington - BENJAMIN ROESCH
  • Benjamin Roesch
  • The trails are open at the Audubon in Huntington
• Families may enjoy the trails and outdoor areas at Audubon Vermont in Huntington. The center's education team is also creating and sharing online content that can be done at home or outside with common household materials. Find mini nature lessons here.
With the return of migratory birds, now is also a good time to brush up on or begin birdwatching while practicing social distancing.

Fairbanks museum is offering online learning materials - COURTESY OF FAIRBANKS MUSEUM & PLANETARIUM
  • Courtesy of Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium
  • Fairbanks museum is offering online learning materials
• St. Johnsbury’s Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium offers free online learning options, including astronomy materials from meteorologist Mark Breen. Daily, the museum posts "Moments of Zen" on its Facebook page — a snapshot of the Museum’s eclectic gallery and collections through the eyes of various visitors.

• Teaching your kids at home? The Vermont School Librarians’ Association compiled Learning at Home: Resources for Teachers. This resource compiles free programming and resources for preschoolers to teens.

• The Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS) is offering  educational videos and resources on Facebook, including a Facebook Live owl encounter on Wednesday, March 25 at 12:30 p.m.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Learning in the Time of Coronavirus: Resources from Authors and Illustrators

Posted By on Tue, Mar 17, 2020 at 6:41 PM

Coronavirus won't stop kids' learning and creativity. A "quarantine art gallery" displayed in a family's front window in Shelburne. - ALISON NOVAK
  • Alison Novak
  • Coronavirus won't stop kids' learning and creativity. A "quarantine art gallery" displayed in a family's front window in Shelburne.

As kids transition from school to at-home learning, parents are trying to figure out how to support their kids' education. We're here to lend a hand. In the coming weeks, we will provide lists of resources to help moms, dads and caregivers find activities, projects, online learning opportunities and more that will enrich the lives of families.

Many authors and illustrators have already stepped up during this time, offering live drawing tutorials, virtual story times and printable activities. Here's a selection that we'll update regularly.  (All times are Eastern Daylight Time):

  • Every weekday at 2 p.m., Jarrett J. Krosoczka — author and illustrator of the Lunch Lady series and the graphic novel Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father and Dealth With Family Addiction, a National Book Award finalist — will host free webcasts on YouTube, in which he teaches art lessons. All episodes of Draw Everyday with JJK will be archived here.

  • jeffers.jpg
    Author/illustrator Oliver Jeffers, who illustrated the popular picture book The Day the Crayons Quit, is reading one of his books "everyday until it's safe to go out again" at 2 p.m. on his Instagram stories. Jeffers says in an Instagram post that recordings will be added to his website a few hours later.

  • Vermont children’s book author and illustrator Liza Woodruff, has a selection of downloadable activities on her website.

  • Courtesy of the Kennedy Center
On the Kennedy Center website, artist-in-residence Mo Willems, of the Elephant and Piggy series and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! fameinvites kids to "grab some paper and pencils, pens or crayons" for a LUNCH DOODLE every weekday at 1 p.m. Each episode has an accompanying activity page. Episodes can be streamed after they air.

  • Every Monday at 12:30 p.m., Narwhal and Jelly series author Ben Clanton will share "miximal" (mixed animals) drawing videos on Instagram Live.

  • Illustrator and graphic journalist Wendy MacNaughton, whose work is often featured in the New York Times, will offer an all-ages drawing class every day this week at 1 p.m. in her Instagram stories. The videos will stay in her stories for 24 hours.

  • Author and illustrator Rachel Ignotofksy offers free coloring pages on her website.

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Saturday, January 4, 2020

Vermont Kids Get Three Days of Skiing or Riding for $49

Posted By on Sat, Jan 4, 2020 at 8:09 AM

A ski lesson at Mad River Glen in Waitsfield - COURTEST OF VERMONT SKI AREAS ASSOCIATION
  • Courtest of Vermont Ski Areas Association
  • A ski lesson at Mad River Glen in Waitsfield
Young Vermonters can learn to ski or snowboard at a discounted rate, thanks to a subsidy from the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. The deal is only available to 125 children on a first-come, first-served basis.

The subsidy pays $80 towards the $129 Ski Vermont Take 3 Beginner package, which covers three lift tickets, three equipment rental packages and three beginner group lessons for children ages 5-18. Participants can choose to use all three days at the same resort, or travel around the state and discover new areas. Participating resorts include Bolton Valley, Burke Mountain, Jay Peak Resort, Killington Resort, Magic Mountain, Mount Snow Resort, Pico Mountain, Smugglers’ Notch Resort, Stratton Mountain Resort and Sugarbush Resort.

With this deal, the Governor’s Council and Ski Vermont aim to encourage young people to start a new habit of being physically active outdoors during winter. The state Department of Health recommends that children participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, throughout the year, for optimal health and wellbeing.

“Skiing and snowboarding provide great cardiovascular and strengthening exercise that can help children stay fit and healthy through the winter. Getting outdoors also improves focus and creates feelings of relief and happiness,” said Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine of Northwestern Medical Center, a member of the Governor’s Council.

To receive the $49 package, an adult must fill out a survey found on the council’s website. Once submitted, Ski Vermont will email a coupon code with instructions on how to purchase the package and schedule the child’s lesson. The packages are only for beginner skiers and snowboarders only. Families with multiple children must order each child's package separately in order to receive the discount on each. Ski areas also have specific age parameters and blackout dates, which can be viewed here. Read carefully before purchasing to make sure your kiddo can go to the slope!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Step Back in Time at the Saint Albans Museum

Posted By on Wed, Sep 11, 2019 at 1:14 PM

  • Joy Choquette
On a perfect August evening — puffy, snowball clouds, a cool breeze and the sun starting to dip — my husband and I took our 10-year-old son and 8-year-old nephew to the annual Kids Night at the Saint Albans Museum. The museum, housed in a stately, three-story brick building above Taylor Park, aims to preserve and share the history and heritage of St. Albans and the surrounding areas.

The theme of the night was a Harry Potter-inspired “Witches and Wizardry,” and the first two floors were decked out with stars, owls, maps and more. Kids could make a crown, fashion a wand and create an owl from a paper plate. They could have their faces painted or step into the photo booth and leave with a souvenir of their visit.  
The Railroad Room - JOY CHOQUETTE
  • Joy Choquette
  • The Railroad Room

While my husband and I would have liked a little more time in the exhibit rooms —in particular the new agricultural exhibit — our son and his cousin were intent to zoom through at top speed. The Railroad Room and the Military Room held their attention the longest. The Railroad Room features a waiting area and ticket seller’s office, along with a model train running on a track through a tiny rural town. There are many train-related photos and memorabilia on the walls, too, like oil cans, lanterns and a conductor’s uniform. In the Military Room, soldiers' uniforms from the Civil War and earlier are displayed neatly in a glass case, while weapons  — guns, knives, cannonballs and more — cover the walls.

After a quick tour, we went outside to play a modified Quidditch game where the boys lobbed a duct-taped balloon through rings on poles — until their balloon popped.

I grew up a few miles north of St. Albans and have visited the museum several times over the years. I remember its dark, shadowy corners and that musty odor that so often accompanies historic buildings. But recently, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the transformation it’s undergone.

The lighting is bright, the rooms are well-organized and exhibits are clearly labeled A recent grant from RiseVT, a community-based wellness initiative, allowed the museum to install play areas to engage kids in learning about history. Each station features a historic-themed activity — for example, making a fan in the women’s history exhibit or playing a “Kerplunk”-style egg game in the agricultural history exhibit. Coloring sheets, books and a scavenger hunt also keep kids interested.

Older kids will likely gravitate toward the Medical Room, a space dedicated to medical practices of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Be warned: You’ll find a mannequin sporting a giant spike through its head. It's a model of Phineas Gage, a Vermont railroad worker who had a horrific accident and lived to tell the tale. Younger children will likely enjoy the historic classroom. In fact, the building that houses the museum was first used as a school. It’s easy for children to imagine themselves getting ready for class in this room: tucking lunch pails under the hard wooden seats of their desk and facing the front as a teacher wrote in neat penmanship on the blackboard at the front of the room.

As a kid, I would have been entranced by that and by the Women’s Realm, an exhibit where beautiful, lacy dresses, old-fashioned bonnets and antique gloves are showcased.

After you’ve browsed the exhibits, you can peruse the small, well-stocked gift shop where you’ll find fun items like train whistles and puzzles. Then head outside to Taylor Park to play the oversized, colorful musical instruments there: big, bongo drums planted in the ground and a giant vertical xylophone. And if you’re hungry, grab a bite at Maple City Diner (7 Swanton Rd.), just a mile north on Route 7, for another taste of classic Vermont.

Saint Albans Museum (9 Church St., St. Albans)  is open Wednesday - Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. through October 4. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for students 5-18 and free for children under 5.  The museum’s Haunted Museum Trick-or-Treat takes place on Saturday, October 26 from noon-2 p.m., and is open to all ages.
The museum is a National Endowment for the Arts Blue Star Museum, which means that admission is free for active duty military and families. The entry fee is also waived for families receiving SNAP benefits as part of the Association of Children’s Museum’s “Museums for All” program. Family passes can be checked out from libraries in Franklin and Grand Isle counties.

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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Fletcher Free Summer Challenge Brings Lunar Samples to the Library

Posted By on Thu, May 30, 2019 at 2:09 PM

  • Courtesy of Abby Wanserski
  • One of the NASA discs
On Sunday, June 2, the Fletcher Free Library will open its doors to families with music, space-themed snacks, rocketry activities and rare moon rocks on loan from NASA. The “launch” party celebrates the library’s Summer Challenge, titled “A Universe of Stories.”

The Fletcher Free summer program falls under the umbrella of the Collaborative Summer Library Program, which shares programming and resources around the country. A grant from NASA@My Library — a project run by NASA to increase STEM learning opportunities — supports this year’s far-out theme. NASA will provide moon samples for the weekend event, as well as a full-size Orion telescope, and backpacks that the library can lend out, complete with mini telescopes, books and computer mouses that can be used for coding.
Teen librarian Abby Wanserski went
Fletcher Free teen librarian Abby Wanserski
  • Fletcher Free teen librarian Abby Wanserski
 through a day-long training in Denver, CO to learn how to handle the samples. “During the training, they point out how these were all collected by astronauts and they’re so invaluable because people risked their lives to get them,” she said. “And you’re like, Oh, right! That’s really crazy.

The library will only have the samples from 2 to 4 p.m., before they will return to the protection of the Burlington Police Department. While they’re at the library, Wanserski will run a station where people can look at the samples in plastic disks, see video footage and participate in activities.

The library has run 40 years of summer reading programs, but more recently, has broadened its scope to keep patrons engaged in diverse ways. Over the summer, younger kids can fill out bingo-like sheets with activities, like reading a certain amount, or attending a library event. When they turn in the sheet, they are entered into raffles, with prizes from community organizations. Last year, more than 1,000 participants were entered into giveaways, which included movie tickets from Merrill's Roxy Cinema, coupons and a Kindle Fire.

The challenge is meant for Fletcher Free card holders — people who live, work or go to school in Burlington. But everyone, regardless of their residence, is invited to the free library programs.

The challenge "gets more casual as ages go up,” said Wanserski, “because people get busier.” The teen version of the challenge includes writing prompts that can be completed for entry into a raffle.

The definition of reading is looser, too. Comics and magazines can be included in participants' reading logs. Wanserski said this type of reading material can be a gateway to more advanced books. As a child, she said, “I liked reading graphic novels, and then I started reading the books that the graphic novels were based on."

The June 2 blast-off is one of many events that the Fletcher Free Library will be hosting over the summer. A live screening of Apollo 11 will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing on July 15. There will be a stargazing party with snacks in Lakeview Cemetery on Saturday, July 20.

It's really important to keep your brain engaged and stimulated throughout the summer, said Wanserski, "and it's really important to do it in a fun way."

For more information about summer reading programs at Vermont libraries, visit the Vermont Department of Libraries.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Congratulations to our May Writing Contest Winners!

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 12:36 PM

In our May issue, we asked kids to imagine they were a bird and write about what it would feel like, using the prompt, "If I were a bird..." Below, find the winning entries. Charlotte and Maya each receive a $25 gift certificate to the Crow Bookshop in Burlington.

Charlotte Niles, 6, Cambridge
If I were a bird, I would be named Sky.
I would fly high up i the sky.
When I see food, I would drop down
I build a nest with leaves and mud.
If I were a bird, I would be an American Goldfinch.
I would say Potato Chip, Potato Chip,
If I were a bird.

Maya Volpe, 7, Benson
If  I were a bird
I would see
The green grass below me
as I fly above the rest of the flock
in the beautiful blue sky
I'm looking for a tree to build my nest
a tree with fruit
a tree with leaves
to protect me on a stormy day.

Find the current writing contest in the "Just for Kids" section of the June Dad issue. The deadline to enter is June 15.

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Digital Forensics & Cybersecurity Academy

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Learn the science of investigating and preventing computer crimes by working alongside experienced industry professionals in Champlain College’s state-of-the-art, nationally recognized digital forensics lab, The Leahy Center for Digital Forensics & Cybersecurity. Students will gain real, practical skills in cybersecurity and ethical hacking as they learn how to defend against…(more)

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