As parents and kids trade their sand pails for school books and face the upcoming school year, there's bound to be a few butterflies in everyone's stomach. The little ones wonder: Will I be wearing the right clothes? Will I get the seat right in front of the teacher? Will I find a friend? Their parents wonder: Will this new teacher understand my child? Will my child be happy his teacher? Will my child love school? Will he love learning?
As parents, we may not be able to assign our child the perfect classroom seat, but there's a lot we can do to help them "learn to love learning" and make their educational experience a happy one. We can work together with teachers to understand our children's unique learning styles in order to provide a classroom learning environment where they can thrive. Outside the classroom, we can seek learning experiences tailored to our children's likes and interests to show them that learning happens every day and everywhere, and that learning can be fun.
The good news is, the Bay Area is chock full of learning centers, museums, and places that will nurture your child's interests and inspire him to learn, no matter what he's into. Here are five of them:
If your child likes sea life, visit to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Budding marine biologists can explore the world under the waters at the newly opened Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS). Near the Municipal Wharf and overlooking the Monterey Bay, the center gives visitors a glimpse into one of the world's largest and most diverse ecosystems. Visitors can look into a giant water tank that recreates the Grand Canyon-like Monterey Submarine Canyon, then view an interactive video to identify lanternfish and other deep sea animals. They can view footage from remote-controlled underwater vehicles that show rocks, kelp, deep sea animals living in the canyon's depths. Other exhibits include a rocky tide touchpool, a model of a kelp forest, and an outdoor deck with incredible views of Monterey Bay.
If your child likes stargazing, visit the Fujitsu Planetarium. De Anza College's recently renovated Fujitsu Planetarium is the largest school planetarium west of the Rockies, and one of the most modern planetariums in the world. Public astronomy shows are presented on most Saturday afternoons and evenings, where presenters take the audience on a tour of the night sky. Afterwards, the planetarium comes alive with back-to-back Laser Light shows featuring laser light drawn images set to music.
If your child likes ancient history, visit the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. Young Indiana Joneses and Lara Crofts can pretend they're off to discover lost artifacts at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. The fun begins as they walk amongst the Karnak rams lining the walkway to the front doors, and pass through painted pillars and gilded doors. They can check out pottery, weapons, and other ancient Egyptian artifacts, wander through a replica of King Tut's tomb, and get a real thrill from seeing some real mummies.
If your child likes drawing, visit the Charles M. Schulz Museum. The Charles M. Schulz Museum in Sonoma isn't just a place for Peanuts fans to pay homage to Charlie Brown and Snoopy's creator, or have a chuckle while reading through the largest collection of Peanuts strips in the world. It's also a place where young cartoonists can learn the art of animation and discover their own potential. Visitors of all ages can learn about cartooning techniques, meet professional cartoonists, practice cartooning and create their own hand-drawn zoetrope animation. After your visit, make some time to cross the street and drop by Snoopy's Home Ice, an ice rink designed and built by Schulz and his wife, or indulge in a treat at the Warm Puppy Cafe.
If your child likes American history, visit the Sanchez Adobe. Located in Pacifica just off Highway 1, the Sanchez Adobe is the second oldest building in San Mateo County. Now a historic museum operated by San Mateo County, it is considered the finest example of Spanish era architecture in the county. Visitors can get a glimpse of life in the Mission era as they walk around the farm, explore the house's interior, and view artifacts from archaeological digs. Don't miss their annual Rancho Day Fiesta (on the third Saturday in September), when families can step into the past and participate in old-time activities like candle dipping and adobe brick making.
Ana blogs about her life and family on Finding Bonggamom. She shares her favorite products for kids and parents on Bonggamom Finds and tackles local issues on Silicon Valley Mamas. Follow Ana onTwitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
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