At these drop-in, two-hour classes, kids and their caregivers explore the Arboretum, learn about nature and make fun art projects. Waterproof boots, pants and coats are a must – puddle jumping is practically mandatory.
I enrolled my two boys (ages 2 and 4), and they have thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Arboretum with a pack of muddy preschoolers, guided by teachers Mikhail Tatrin and Sarah Heller. The kids hike (parents in tow), examine leaves and mushrooms, observe ducks, crawl through brush like little Gore-Tex bears, smell flowers and splash in every available slick of water or mud.
Class starts in a greenhouse at the Arboretum, with stations for the kids to explore, usually including sensory bins, story books, painting and smells or textures. After about 15 minutes, the group gathers up and sets out on an exploration walk through the Arboretum. Each week is themed, and the walk is punctuated by themed activities and story time. Afterwards, the kids troop back to the greenhouse for an arts and crafts project.
If you think a charity’s headquarters would have little appeal for families, you haven't been to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center. Opened last year, the Visitor Center features compelling interactive exhibits that give visitors a chance to become a part of its work, and that embody its motto: “Arrive curious. Leave inspired.”
See for yourself this Saturday, March 23, when the Visitor Center hosts “Family Day: Kick It Forward,” a kid-oriented event that’s all about soccer. The question at hand: With so many kids (and grown-ups) around the world playing soccer on any field, street or patch of dirt they can find, how can the force of this game be harnessed for good?
Among many activities, visitors will be able to meet former Sounders FC players Roger Levesque and Taylor Graham and hear how soccer has inspired them. Also attending will be Street Soccer Seattle, an organization that uses soccer teams to give homeless adults a community to which to belong.
Also during Family Day, kids can make their own soccer balls out of recycled materials, and everyone can marvel at Soccket, a ball that stores energy generated by play and later powers a small lamp. A pick-up game is planned as well, so come ready to play. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is free.
Kids exploring global problems
Even without a special event, the Gates Foundation Visitor Center warrants a visit. And while many exhibits target middle schoolers and up, families with elementary-age and even younger kids will find enough to entertain. A few highlights:
- Simple, powerful demonstrations showcase critical world problems and ask visitors to think about potential solutions. For example, kids can lift two buckets of water and then follow a pathway of footprints showing how far, on average, many people walk carrying the water they need every day.
- A small theater shows a continuous rotation of short films; staff can point out the best ones for the age of your crew.
- The Innovation and Inspiration Gallery spurs visitors to think about problem-solving with a screen that rolls out a question like a slot machine. “How could you provide transportation to homeless families if you had 50 laptops?” was the question posed to a recent visitor.
- At a table stocked with blocks, tiles, pipe cleaners and other supplies, visitors can construct an invention that helps solve a world problem, then take a photo of their product to become part of the exhibit.
- The “Share Your Cause” display trees at the end of the hall invite visitors to answer to fill out a card and hang it up to share. “[Blank] really needs your help” reads one card; “Draw your cause” says another. The end result is a collection of inspiring ideas and causes — just what the Center hopes you’ll leave with.
The message from the Visitor Center is clear: You don’t need to be a billionaire to make a difference in the world. It takes the ideas and actions of everyone.
If you go ...
Kick it forward: Kick it Forward will be held at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center on Saturday, March 23, from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Admission is free.
Visitor Center hours: The Visitor Center is free and open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Parking: The Gates Foundation Visitor Center is located just east of Seattle Center, across the street from Memorial Stadium. Directions here. Pay lots are nearby, as well as some street parking. Bus routes serving Belltown, Lower Queen Anne and traveling on Denny Way will get you close. For sustenance, QFC is just a block to the north.
Teen Night Out: The next special event hosted by the Gates Foundation Visitors Center is Teen Night, on April 26. Participants will learn about their peers who are making a difference, explore how to get involved themselves, and enjoy music, dancing and games. Check the Visitor Center’s Facebook page for more future events.
About the author: Nancy Chaney is a freelance writer, ParentMap's Camps & Classes editor, and the Seattle mom of a four-year-old boy.
One thing I’ve noticed about taking my daughters to theater: they absolutely light up with intellectual curiosity when they see young actors on stage.
Ages 7 and 9, they glow with rapt attention when anyone under the age of 19 walks the boards. My kids like to watch other kids. So, not surprisingly my elementary school giraffes adored the Youth Theatre Northwest production of Little Women— how could they not? The entire cast and crew of this surprisingly satisfying gem was born after 1993.
Truth be told, being an eternal English major, I envisioned my evening at the theater with the girls as an inspired set-up for a wonderful “teachable moment” about the nascence of woman’s rights in United States history and the importance of Louisa May Alcott in the germination of the suffrage movement.
But I was unprepared for the actual theater experience. Supported by production team of seasoned professionals led by Youth Theatre Northwest's Artistic Director Mimi Katano, the cast of Little Women is a tight ensemble, polished, professional and above all clearly talented young people.
Despite their age, these seasoned thespians were able to convey a complex dynamic between sisters Amy, Beth, Jo, and Meg — the emotional armature of the story, which strangely I hadn’t really contemplated until I saw it performed by 15-year-old Juliette Levy (Amy), 16-year-old Anais Gralpois (Beth), 15-year-old Emma Bentsen (Jo), and 17-year-old Brynne Henry (Meg).
From the kiddies to the connoisseurs, there’s something for everyone at Pacific Northwest Ballet this weekend – but not all at the same time.
Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) company is performing a mixed repertory called Modern Masterpieces, while the Pacific Northwest Ballet School presents Hansel and Gretel. Both are excellent; neither is for everyone.
Modern Masterpieces is an aptly named collection of some of PNB’s most interesting works. Although the first two pieces are a good introduction to modern ballet, the second half is more challenging with its combination of nontraditional movement and inaccessible music. Ballet fans and orchestra nerds will love it, but younger kids and the uninitiated may prefer something else.
Including two intermissions, Modern Masterpieces lasts three hours. Almost everyone will recognize the music by Johann Sebastian Bach used for George Balanchine’s “Concerto Barocco.” This beautiful ballet is a great opener. The white-clad women of “Concerto Barocco” are replaced by men in black in the world premiere of Paul Gibson’s “Mozart Pieces.” Somewhat unusual for its focus on male dancers, “Mozart Pieces” remains conventionally pretty through its use of familiar music and movement.
During the first intermission, my 8 year-old and I talked about how dance doesn’t always tell a story. It can be a way of showing the music; dancers match their bodies to the sounds that the music makes. Because this is what children do, she made this leap easily, and enjoyed these first two pieces as much as I did.
One hundred years from now, I wonder what the feminist texts and history books will say about this enlightened period we live in now — the one fueled by mommy wars, "have it all” debates, and countless books, blogs and blather devoted to a topic that seems to only go in one direction: round and round (and round)?
Is this merely the messy, early stage of a new global women’s movement — the one where we finally eliminate gender inequality, abolish the pay gap, offer all parents high quality subsidized child care, and get those progressive feminists in the corner office where they belong? Or does this near constant cacophony represent something else entirely — pointless infighting among a small group of self-righteous women suffering from too much privilege?
Well, since I’m a privileged woman with a degree from a private liberal arts women’s college, I really can’t resist this one. Today’s topic: Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, just published by Knopf.
Just to make sure we’re leaning in the same direction, though, here’s a quick roundup of the controversy thus far:
Mocked as a Silicon Valley Marie Antoinette? In perhaps my favorite op-ed to date, Katha Politt in The Nation (“Who’s Afraid of Sheryl Sandberg?”) likens Sandberg’s read as “someone who’s just taken Women’s Studies 101 and wants to share it with her friends. Did you know that women apply for jobs only when they are 100 percent qualified, but men apply at 60 percent? That even incredibly accomplished women think they’re frauds about to be found out? That women are caught in a double bind between femininity and ambition? Have you read Alice Walker?”
I read the book. This is important, I think, because most of the early criticism has come from people who lashed out or took a side even before Lean In was released.