Friday, February 5, 2016

Conservation Contest for Children

Did you know that your child can win an exciting contest simply by sitting down and putting thoughts to paper on how we can conserve in our lives? Well get started because the deadline is soon!

One of our longest running bloggers since the beginning, Melissa Rooney (now a published author at would like to tell you about the Durham Conservation Contests for grades 3 through 9. Get this: free entry; cash prizes; and entries due Feb 17th. Wanna know more? Here's Melissa.

"I am a DPS parent and an associate supervisor on Durham’s Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), which holds annual conservation contests for Durham kids. The winners and their teachers (or parents if homeschooled) receive cash prizes as well as certificates awarded at a dinner provided by the SWCD. My daughter won the poster contest when she was in 5th grade, and many of my daughter’s 6th-grade classmates placed or won in their contests the following year. In every case, it was a wonderful experience for all involved. Since then, I have witnessed dozens of students' and their teachers’ pleasure participating in this opportunity. Of course, most students are enticed by the cash prizes, but the finalists (and there are 3 per grade per contest) come away with so much more.

Due to the lack of entries this year, the deadline has been extended to Feb 17 (2016), which means that those who enter this year's contests may have even better chances of becoming finalists.

Please consider encouraging your kids to enter, and spread the word to teachers at your schools. If teachers cannot incorporate the contests (which incorporate core-curricula requirements) into their class assignments, please ask them to tell their students about these contests as soon as possible, so that any student who wants to enter has time to prepare a quality submission.

For your convenience, the brochures for each contest (poster, essay, slide-show, public speaking) are included below. Details can also be found at (middle of webpage; again, note that Feb 17, 2016, is the new deadline)."

Friday, January 29, 2016

Flip4Kids camp review and giveaway

Last summer I did a giveaway for a Flip4Kids camp and am excited to say you've got another chance! The winner of the giveaway sent their kiddo the same week I sent mine, courtesy of owner Hao Nguyen, and the girls had a blast! Registration for this summer starts on Monday and offers early registration discounts so now is the time to learn more. 

Before I tell you about our experience, let me tell you a little bit about Flip4Kids and why I love them. Flip4Kids offers a traditional fun summer camp in a full immersion setting and you can choose from Spanish, French, or Chinese. The camps are for 4 - 11 year olds and run from 9am-3:30pm at Rashkis Elementary in Meadowmont in Chapel Hill. (But if the full week, full day option isn't for you, they also offer flex camps! Your child can attend camp for half a day in the AM or PM or come 2,3, or 5 days out of the week. Extended care is also an option. Whatever works for your family best!) Each day, children begin by practicing the words and melodies to one of the camp's interactive units. Then it's on the first lesson - Spanish, Chinese, or French - with lots of interactive games. After that it's time to enjoy a day full of music and movement, indoor and outdoor games, cooking, and arts and crafts activities. And Flip4Kids works with campers of all skill levels, so if you already speak another language at home, or if your child is in a dual language program at school but could use some brushing up on skills, or just would have fun practicing their vocabulary, it's a wonderful place for beginners and fluent children alike, as well as anybody somewhere in between!

For example, just one week of camp last year involved a visit to Kidzu Children's Museum, the fire station, the post office, Harris Teeter to practice grocery shopping, and a Mexican restaurant (where they had to order in Spanish).  They also had a visit from a police officer, made tortillas and cookie houses, observed earthworms, learned songs and more. In my daughter's week they made toucan wings, masks, and anklets for Brazil's Carnivale, learned spanish dances, made maracas, earned pesos which they traded in for goodies, ordered snowcones in spanish, sang songs in Spanish, and still got lots of exercise outside. My daughter had already expressed a lot of interest in Spanish and wanted to learn more. This week was so wonderful for her thirst for knowledge about another language, and she hasn't stopped wanting to learn since. 

Learning a foreign language is an amazing thing for children - it's benefits can't be underestimated. Kids who speak more than one language have been proven to be better at problem solvingswitching between tasks is easier, have improved memorybetter social skills with a wider range of peers, a greater appreciation for our diverse world, and the benefits continue with age, including increased earning potential and slower cognitive decline. Read more about why a second language is so great for a growing brain here, at SoDu Parents Posse's blog about Flip4Kids.

But there's more! 

  • If you have a child over 11, they can apply to be a counselor in training!
  • This year Flip4Kids is proud to introduce their ESL camps! 
  • Lastly, if summer camps aren't an option for you, they do also offer language classes for kids of all ages from six months and up. Just check their website for more information:

So, if you'd like to enter to win the FREE WEEK of summer camp simply meet Hao in person at the summer camp fair at University Mall on February 6th. Now is the time to take advantage of early registration discounts and pick your week before it fills up! More info on the fair here:

(FTC required disclosure: In exchange for a blog post, I was given a free summer camp so that I could sample their services.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Transactors Improv for Families

Need a couple laughs in those days after Christmas when your kids are stir crazy, you can't see the carpet for the wrapping paper and fallen Christmas tree needles? This year we got the chance to see Transactors Improv Group's Improv for Families show! 

Transactors Improv Company's tagline is "If you laugh we're doing comedy, if you don't we're doing drama." Spectator said that Transactors is a "great example of how comic genius performs under pressure." longest-running improvisational theater in the south. Our work focuses on emotion, physicality, character, commitment, teamwork, and fun. The company formed in 1983 at The ArtsSchool in Carrboro, N.C., as a children's theater. Much of its work was scripted, but over time the group metamorphosed into a professional touring company performing improvisational theater for audiences of all ages.

Transactors invited us to their "Day-After-Christmas-Pajama-Show!" where the entire audience was allowed, nay, encouraged to wear PJ's, so you can imagine that kiddos (and even some adults) loved it! This event was at Common Ground theater which I love for how close you are to the show, just feels intimate. The improv comedians came out (in their pj's as well!) and made the audience feel comfortable, and gave us instructions on how to be part of an improv show. They would take suggestions from the audience for different scenarios and just roll with it, and the surprise component of it and general goofiness make the kids guffaw. A lot of the scenes and situations were holiday themed, and made it even better. My favorite bit was when they took lines that the audience had written down on slips of paper in the lobby before the show. They took the slips of paper with famous lines from movies, silly phrases, and more that we had written and scattered them around the floor. Then throughout the skit they'd pause their improvised line like "Donna I've always loved you but there's something I should tell you..." and pick up one of these audience written paper slips to finish their line. It was brilliant! My kids were cracking up. They also had volunteers from the audience of all ages come up and be part of skits. The hour seemed to fly by because it was such a laid back, silly time. There were kids and adults of all ages there, and I heard everyone laughing, so it's a great event if you've got extended family in town as well. 

Lucky for you Transactors has family shows every couple months! The next one is this Saturday, January 16th. "Surprises" is the theme and as they say "Its a new year full of new experiences waiting to happen. Join us as we explore different types of fun surprises, like parties, adventures, and gifts!" The cast is director Anoo Brod, Bart Hubbard, and Jane Allen Wilson. It's at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro and you can buy tickets through etix here
Here's more information about the event on their facebook page:

(FTC required disclosure: In exchange for a blog post, I was given a two free tickets to a show so that I could sample their services and write a more accurate review. However, the opinions are my own.)

Friday, January 8, 2016

MC Escher exhibit at NCMA

MC Escher may be one of the best known artists because of his unique trademark style, but have your kids met him yet? Now is the time as the NCMA exhibit closes on January 24th!

I wanted to be one of the first to see the new MC Escher exhibit - "The Worlds of M. C. Escher: Nature, Science, and Imagination" - at Raleigh's North Carolina Museum of Art back in October (and avoiding the State Fair crowds was a big bonus). I went with fellow SoDu Parents Posse mom Leah and our kids and wow - was it impressive! Since it was opening weekend, they had a lot of amazing events to coincide which are not currently happening, but the exhibit is more than enough reason to go over there. 

The exhibit is the most comprehensive Escher exhibition ever presented in the United States, and includes 130 "woodcuts, lithographs, wood engravings, and mezzotints, as well as numerous drawings, watercolors, wood blocks, and lithographic stones never before exhibited." The exhibit has something from the Dutch graphic artist’s entire career, "from his earliest print to his final masterpiece... [and] ...highlights Escher’s explorations of nature, mathematics, science, and the realm of his imagination. Escher’s best-known prints are on view, as well as his lesser-known portraits and Italian landscapes." (from NCMA's website) 

One of the activities opening weekend had was make your own infinity style Mobius Strip, made famous in many of Escher's works. A mobius strip is created when you take a single strip of paper and giving one of the two ends a half twist, and then reattaching the two ends. We stamped and decorated ours and have them hanging from strings in our kitchen. Super easy to make at home and a great way of making the exhibit come alive for your kids.

They also had a pop up of a 3D printer, where you could have them create a lizard or other simple item, and a burner where they cut out paper versions of MC Escher's famous lizard tessellation branded with your name on them. They also had lizard stencils and brightly colored chalk and people were making them into patterns all over the sidewalk.

Although it was a beautiful fall day, we knew the great stuff was inside so downstairs we went and it was just amazing. I never realized how prolific he was in so many mediums, like woodballs that he carved with intricate patterns and delicate pen and ink portrayals of landscapes. I could have spent hours there because there was so much to take in. When we went the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit wasn't open yet, so I can't speak to it, but I'm sure it's wonderful too. Photography isn't allowed in the exhibit but it is okay in the area next to the gift store and in the lobby. (All photos here are either from the internet or in the lobby area.)

Another way of getting your kids immersed in the bizarre geometry of MC Escher afterwards is to download the beautiful and captivating interactive puzzle game Monument Valley - available at the app store. The designer of the game actually came and spoke at a NCMA event in December to coincide with this exhibit. In the screenshot below you can see how they were inspired by Escher.

If you want to combine your visit with a special event, I've listed some below. Please double check dates, times, and cost before attending.

Events this weekend:
Cocktails, Craft, and Camaraderie: Perler Bead Geometry
JANUARY 8, 2016 | 6:30 PM
Hang out with friends and get down to some geometric crafting inspired by M. C. Escher’s works. Create a cool three-color illusion piece with Perler beads that you can hang up in your office. One Toasted Marshmallow Russian is included in the ticket price.

Special Family Tour of The Worlds of M. C. Escher
An free interactive 30-minute tour (with paid exhibition ticket) for families with children ages 6–12. Sign up that day; first come, first served.
Box Office | (919) 715-5923 (click on related events and scroll down to the bottom to see these)

Also (not MC Escher, but still fun):
Weekend Family-Friendly Tour: Hang on to Your Hats! (this happens throughout the month)
January 15 is National Hat Day. Look for fancy hats, a decorative crown, and unusual headdresses in the collection. Half-hour tours for kids ages 5–11 and their adult companions. (This link is just for one of the times.)

The following weekend (last weekend the DaVinci exhibit is open): 

Family Fun Saturdays: Specimen Lab
SATURDAY, JANUARY 16, 2016 | 10 AM and 1PM
M. C. Escher and Leonardo da Vinci were keen observers of the natural world. Hone your own powers of observation as you use art to explore and record the colors, patterns, textures, and  forms found in the natural world.
Gallery tour plus studio workshops for families. A different theme each time means there’s always something new to discover. 
Please note: All participants (children and adults) must have a ticket. These popular workshops sell out quickly, so reserve your spot early. This event does have fees.
Go here and scroll down, click on the time you want to buy tickets online:

An event on the last day of the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit:
Pop-Up Art: Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester. 
Create a miniature journal inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester. 
Free. All ages; children must be accompanied by an adult


What we liked: There is a lot to see and do for the price of admission, two exhibits for one! Plus you can see all the normal works as well, then enjoy the outside trail and sculptures. This might be your only chance to see Escher's works in person, and it's hard to pass up such an opportunity. 

What we would change: I can't think of a thing! Don't miss it!

(919) 839-6262

Cost (The Worlds of M. C. Escher and Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester are ticketed together. Cost does not refer to special events above, those are separate and may be free or have a cost.):
Child 6 and under: free

Youth 7-18: $12.00
Adult 19+: $18.00

The Worlds of M. C. Escher has been extended to January 24, 2016. During that time, the Museum will also offer extended hours. The Da Vinci exhibit ends on Jan 17th.
Extended Exhibition Hours, January 18–24:
Monday 10 am–5 pm  [West Building closed]
Tuesday–Thursday 10 am–5 pm
Friday–Saturday 10 am–9 pm
Sunday 10 am–5 pm

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