In Vermont, the natural beauty, along with educational camps, discovery centers, and museums, all help cultivate an enjoyable learning environment. The Green Mountain State has a breadth of opportunities for children to learn outside of the classroom, and here are the 10 best!
KidsPLAYce is a community, storybook-themed play space for children and their caregivers that was established in 1983. Handmade by local craftsmen and artisans, structures include a two-story playhouse, a castle and ship, and book nook. A safe place that fosters imaginative play, exploration, discovery, and socialization, KidsPLAYce is 34 years-old! The Rockingham Free Library offers an online Community Calendar featuring events and activities.
In the heart of the Green Mountains, lies a summer camp for boys ages 10-14 like no other. At Night Eagle, everyone lives in Lakota-style tipis for the summer, and day are filled with activities that date back hundreds of years—fire making, plant identification, tracking, the art of camouflage, and more. On 135 acres situated in the middle of the Green Mountain National Forest, the Appalachian is only minutes away, and 12 counselors are on hand as guides for this wilderness adventure.
ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain is a 501(c) non-profit organization whose mission is “to educate and delight people about the Ecology, Culture, History, and Opportunities for Stewardship of the Lake Champlain Basin.” ECHO Camps insist that science is fun and that compassion for the earth is important, and against the backdrop of a bustling waterfront, programs include animal care activities, an underwater, cameras-enabled search for Champ, Jedi Science Wars, Lego Robots Mission, and more.
A seven-day, intensive residential musical experience is offered this summer at Johnson State College. Professional music coaches and chamber groups offer private lessons, eurhythmics classes, and orchestra rehearsals. A camp for young musicians, student who are intermediate and advanced are welcome to audition. Financial assistance is available, and don’t forget to check the calendar often for scheduled events.
The sad fact is that every year hundreds of orphaned and injured wild birds and mammals need help. Student learn how to assist Vermont species and what is takes to help them thrive in nature again. One project is to create nurturing habitats for rehabbing animals, while another is learning how to prepare to correct foods. But it is not all work, as campers gets to enjoy swimming, hiking, gardening, and picnics while on the job. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators will guide students in this interactive, hands-on camp featuring many educational activities.
With only 74 campers per session and 3-4 students per counselor, Hosmer Point offers one, two, four, and six-week sessions for ages nine to 15. Day camps are available for ages five to eight, and Wilderness Trekking camps are an option for teens. Students pick from activities a la carte, and activities include, sculling, farm and build, mountain biking, creative arts, and sports and fitness. With a bent on sustainable practices and environmental stewardship, Hosmer Point and the Craftsbury Outdoor Center provide farm-to-table food and an active, “unplugged” lifestyle.
The Montshire Museum of Science had more than 140 exhibits relating to the natural and physical sciences, ecology, and technology. The facility is located on a 110-acre site near the Connecticut River, and the Museum's outdoor environment is a large part of the experience. Families can conduct activities with air, weather, and mechanics while interacting with indoor exhibits. Outdoors, you are encouraged to walk through an impressive scale model of the solar system. There are also nature trails in the Woodland Garden, and a science park.
Explore this 1,400-acre working farm located on the shores of Lake Champlain collecting eggs, helping to milk cows, or having a picnic in the pastoral fields. Shelburne offers an array of hands-on activities like tractor rides and scavenger hunt on one of the trails. Book a room and make a weekend of it, or enjoy summer camps, preschool programs, and more.
The mission of this organization, founded in 1987, is “to provide education, to nurture an appreciation of the environment, and to study birds and their habitats using woodcarvings and other museum resources.” With over 500 hand-carved wooden birds that depict native nesting species in their natural habitat, the museum also hosts a 100-acre bird sanctuary/nature preserve. Go birding, learn bird calls, explore art, or even attempt wood carving.
With a number of changing exhibits, the museum, founded in 1889 by industrialist Franklin Fairbanks, boasts more than 175,000 objects. Topics span art, culture, technology, history, geology, climate, and more. The Naturalist’s Corner covers wetlands, forests, and fields, including plant and animal diversity and the ecosystem, and the planetarium covers the stars and sky that cover the planet. Educational activities abound at this, the only public planetarium in the state.