By: Martianne Stanger
Where can you touch lobsters, crabs, sea stars, and more; discover how animals use shape, size, and color to adapt; solve problems like an engineer; and learn about the hazards and helpers of migratory birds? If you are a kid on or near Cape Cod this August, you can do so for free as a Canal Kid from 10-11:30 on Tuesdays at the Cape Cod Visitor’s Center.
My children and I have enjoyed the July Canal Kids programs and cannot recommend them enough. Each week that we have attended Canal Kids, Ranger Sam and her colleagues have engaged my children and others in an hour and a half of free hands-on learning and fun that is as worthwhile – if not more so – than many paid programs.
One week, the children explored what Rangers do, picturing themselves as rangers, taking a look at vehicles and equipment that rangers use, and using walkie talkies to share codes and report mock incidents.
They also did ranger training by participating in an obstacle course where they put out “fires,” rescued (stuffed) animals, and helped a “wounded” park visitor.
Another week, we explored boating safety by going on a pretend boat ride on an ill-equipped “boat” and then learning what was right and wrong about the life jackets we discovered onboard.
We also explored the effects of hypothermia with a fine motor penny pinching activity in conjunction with discussing and practicing what types of positions and movements to use (and not to use!) should we ever find ourselves in cold water awaiting rescue.
Plus, we had a lot of fun learning to “reach, throw, row, don’t go” should we see a person in trouble in the water, using various conventional and impromptu pieces of equipment to practice the method.
At yet another July Canal Kids session (but one I have no photos of), we explored local trees and identified some by their bark, leaves, and fruit during an outdoor scavenger hunt walk. We also participated in theme-related indoor games and crafts since the weather outside threatened to turn.
So far, every week that my children and I have made the trek from our home to the Cape Cod Canal Vistor’s Center for the Canal Kids program, it has been well worth the drive. The rangers who run everything “get” kids and do a fantastic job engaging them. Their programs are well-paced, hands-on, fun, and educational. The visitor center itself (which has free admission!) offers a variety of hands-on activities, displays, and films that children can check out before or after the Canal Kids program (or any time the center is open, really). It also boasts a kid-favorite: a full-sized tug boat that kids can board.