Local Spotlight: Battery Urban Farm

Last year I organized a homeschool field trip to the Battery Urban Farm.  I was so excited to find this gem of a place right in lower Manhattan!

http://thebattery.org/destinations/urban-farm/

The farm is open to the public from April to November.  This urban farm provides thousands of pounds of produce to local elementary schools and local homeless shelters.  The mission of the farm is “to engage students, residents, and visitors in sustainable farming techniques, the joys of tasting new foods, and the value of urban farming in the evolving story of this historic public park.”

It was truly amazing to see a functioning farm in the middle of our big, bustling city!

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Their field trip was so well organized.  From the ease of the online registration, to the friendliness of the staff, to the multiple hands-on experiences the kids rotated through, the entire day was full of learning and fun.  We even got to taste some of the vegetables they grow!

 

While you are there you can also check out the Sea Glass Carousel, a very beautiful and unique carousel.  You can also spend time near the water watching the boats or hop on the Staten Island Ferry.  There are many beautiful gardens to stroll through, bike paths to ride, and even a labyrinth to walk through.  There is so much for kids to enjoy in this small area of NYC.

Local Spotlight: AMNH Discovery Room

I feel like a lot of parents in NYC have most likely been to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).  But have you checked out the Discovery Room?  I hadn’t until I organized a homeschool field trip there last year.  This year I learned anyone can visit the Discovery Room, even if you are not part of an organized group with a scheduled time.  Apologies if this is common knowledge.  It was news to me!  My kids visited again recently with their grandparents and had an awesome time!

Setting up the field trip was very easy, I simply sent an email and then got a response rather quickly.  While I thought the room might be booked through the school year, it was not and I got our first choice of dates.

First, the staff who was working the day of our trip was just FANTASTIC.  Not only were they knowledgeable and had planned an interesting schedule for our time there but it was obvious they really loved children.  Sadly, this is not always the case when visiting places, even places intended for children.  They moved our group of 4 year olds through several hands-on and engaging activities.

 

My son’s favorite part of the field trip and his recent trip there was their “paleontology field site.” The museum fills a pit with plaster every so often to cover up dinosaur bones on the bottom.  Kids use real archaeological tools to uncover the bones.

He also loved the magnetic dinosaur bones which you can attach to a frame to recreate a dinosaur skeleton.

 

There are also live animals in the room along with several other artifacts and specimens to explore.

The field trip was very inexpensive as far as NYC field trips go, $75 for your group which includes museum admission for the kids and chaperones.  The museum had no problem with a large number of chaperones as each child’s mom accompanied them.  I’ve organized other homeschool field trips where places have not been able to accommodate that many adults.  The discovery room is a large and homeschool friendly place!

But again, even if you’re not part of a group, you can head to the Discovery Room while you are visiting the museum.  You will either be allowed to enter right then or invited back at later time the same day if if’s too crowded at the moment.  It’s worth the wait.

We highly recommend it!

Local Spotlight: Alley Pond Environmental Center

The Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC) is an environmental educational center in Queens, NYC dedicated to preserving nature in an urban setting.  At APEC there are nature trails, salt marshes, forests and meadows.  APEC is open to the public and also offers weekly classes, a nursery school program, after school care, vacation programs, family and adult programs as well as teacher trainings.

APEC also hosts amazing homeschool classes for kids age 4 and up!  Ethan took a class here in the fall.  We drove from Brooklyn and depending on the NYC traffic, it was anywhere from a 35 minute to 2 hour commute.  Most often 35 minutes though!  When we arrived on the first day, we were greeted by this sign…

Alley Pond - Welcome Sign

I almost cried.  Never, have I ever, seen a sign like that anywhere in NYC!  It was so exciting.  And were we ever welcome!  Each week Ethan spent an hour with his class of other 4 and 5 year olds.  The teacher read books, sang songs and led the kids through hands-on experiments and games. Each week they learned about another animal that lives at Alley Pond and they got to meet a live animal right in the classroom!  At the end of each class, the kids took a hike with their teacher around the nature preserve.  It was a great class and I’d highly recommend it!  Ethan’s teacher was warm, friendly and knowledgeable (about children and nature).  He really liked her.  

Alley Pond - Class Time

While Ethan was in class, Lillian and I were free to explore APEC or spend time in one of the classrooms that was not in use.  She really loved this.  She got to play with the toys, look at the books and at the end we were careful to put everything back right where we found it.  There are also lots of live animals inside the class building at APEC that Lillian loved to visit.

Alley Pond - Exploring Animals

Definitely consider APEC if you are a homeschooler in NYC! 

Local Spotlight:  Tinkergarten

Oh, how I love Tinkergaten.  For those of you who know me in real life, you know I actually can’t.stop.talking.about.it.  I knew it would have to be the first local spotlight on the blog.  Fittingly, it was also the first class my kids and I took when we moved to Brooklyn.  

In NYC classes for babies and toddlers are a big business.  Some families pack their kids days with music, gymnastics, dance, art, sports, etc.  There are so many to choose from without having to walk far from our home at all and there were even more when we lived in Manhattan.  And there is a real social pressure to have your kids enrolled in as many activities as possible.  But, that is the subject for another post!  

I’m not even sure how I stumbled upon Tinkergarten, but it was probably through Google.  What is Tinkergarten, you ask?

From their website, www.tinkergarten.com

“Tinkergarten is on a mission to elevate childhood.  Each class becomes a tight-knit group of children and adults who learn together through well-designed, outdoor, play based activities.  We help kids develop a host of important capabilities including empathy, collaboration, creativity, persistence and problem solving.  Our expert-designed classes and activities help kids aged 18 months-8 years develop core life skills while enjoying healthy, fun and engaging experiences in the physical freedom of local green spaces.”

Why do we love it?

Tinkergarten fun

One of my favorite parts of Tinkergarten is that it is fully outside, in all kinds of weather.  We’ve done Tinkergarten on a warm sunny day, a pouring rain day and a snowy day.  It’s been lovely getting to know our “outdoor classroom” in all seasons.  

 

 

We love the mixed age grouping.  Our classes have been for kids aged 0-8.  It’s a truly beautiful thing to watch the older kids and younger kids work and play together.  Also, if you are a homeschooler in NYC, these classes are a great place for kids age 3.5 and up who often “age out” of daytime class offerings when everyone else goes to UPK.

Tinkergarten classes are designed so everyone can participate in a way that works for them.  From babies, to older kids who might find their own exploring more interesting than the teacher’s planned lesson, everyone feels welcome, included and happy.  My daughter took her first class as an 11 month old.  I thought she’d just be tagging along with her older brother but she got right in there and joined in on everything!  At a recent class, the kids found a huge tree branch that had fallen off a tree.  Instead of eating snack on the class tarp as we usually do, our teacher encouraged the class to stay in the tree and eat their snack there!

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11 month old Lillian at Tinkergarten

 

We love the Tinkergarten teachers!  We’ve taken classes with 3 different teachers and they have all been truly wonderful.  This is not something I have experienced with many other kid’s classes – that you love ALL of the teachers you’ve met.

These classes are truly developmentally appropriate.  I once ran screaming from a kid’s music class that involved an electric guitar plugged into an amp, a disco ball AND bubbles.  Cue the extreme overstimulation from sensory overload.  Tinkergarten is just what kids need – peaceful time in nature, sensory and play based experiences led by a loving teacher.  In my opinion, it doesn’t get any better.

Each week you get a follow-up email with photos and information detailing the skills (empathy, perseverance, etc.) the kids worked on in the previous session.

Often part of the class includes the teacher reading a book out loud.  Every book we’ve read has been great!  It’s a source of inspiration of books for us to read in our own home.

To be honest, Tinkergarten has changed, fundamentally, the way we play as a family and the way we structure our homeschool.  It has almost, in a sense, given me permission to play outside, get messy and get out there in all kinds of weather with my kids.  I never would have been led down the path to forest schooling without Tinkergarten.  

Tinkergaraten mud
messy play

So, thank you, Tinkergarten!

Do you have a Tinkergarten near you?  Have you tried one?  I’m curious if anyone is as Tinkergarten crazy as I am.  Let me know in the comments!