Imagine the moment when a shy, introverted young girl steps in front of a room full of people for the first time and speaks with confidence and clarity. This is a regular occurrence at Drama Kids International, where experienced teachers use a unique, copyrighted curriculum to help shape and focus outgoing children or draw shy children out of their shells. Classes for kids as young as 3 refine speech techniques, dramatic movement, and imagination, giving them the confidence to perform in front of an audience or finally ask their parents to change their names to Thespis. For older kids, aged 12–18, Drama Kids International offers the DKI Acting Academy, where serious theater kids can expand their speaking, acting, and auditioning skills through exercises and performances.
There are few places left in the world where humans and hippopotamuses can swim peacefully side by side. In fact, Wet Zone may be the last. Haley, the loveable mascot, wanders around the water park in a floral-print dress with pink eye shadow accentuating her smile while she high-fives birthday boys and girls at on-site parties. Like a queen in her castle, sculptures of her speckle the park's various splash pools, look out over the geysers and showering pipes, and welcome aquatic adventurers to Turtle Cove and the colorful Kiddie Playground. And Haley also lends inspiration, fortifying wee ones with the gusto necessary to tackle the park's two giant water slides or age-specific swim lessons.
While kiddies splash on multi-level playhouses, adults can sneak away from the large lap pool to gear up for aquatic battle at the Water Wars game. Then families can reunite on land for a game of volleyball, or head over to Haley's Hunger Hut for some nachos or hot dogs. Private, grass-roofed cabanas give sun-shunners a place to dodge the heat as they chow down, and free Wi-Fi allows furtive check-ins with work or information transmissions with the mother ship. Yet no one has an excuse to stay dry for long?an on-site gift shop is stocked with bathing suits and towels to equip the ill-prepared for a day spent swimming.
Blase Family Farm creates a setting for seasonal memory-making with a bounty of fall activities. Around the 13-acre farm, hayrides meander through the woods, under leaves tinged with warm hues. Bulbous pumpkins rest at the base of tall trees, waiting for youngsters to claim them. When not searching for the best pumpkin—like the doctor who performed the Headless Horseman’s brain transplant—visitors can socialize with farm animals, such as goats and sheep, and earn their eternal love by feeding them. A farm train also chugs around the grounds, giving its passengers a more comprehensive view of the scenery. In the spring and summer, the farm offers pick-your-own blueberries, perfect for making into jam.
Upon first glance, those training and partying on Kick-em Training Facility's four indoor fields seem to be playing soccer. But they're actually engaging in futsal, a game whose smaller turf and heavier ball make it an ideal training opportunity for soccer players. Atop the green rectangles, athletes practice and casual guests enjoy open play. Birthday partiers can also celebrate sportily before fueling up with cake (prepared, perhaps, in the facility's industrial kitchen). The space also hosts dodge-ball games, and serves as a practice facility for students in mascot academies. Futsal leagues give the sport's local players a place to show off as friends cheer from wooden benches or unleash flocks of doves in their honor.
At Legends Batting Cages, a full roster of outdoor pitching machines fires practice balls at various speeds to help Little Leaguers and advanced batters hone their skills. The machines' weapons of choice are hollow-core MacGregor balls, which fly further than regular baseballs and help prevent broken bats and embarrassing off-key clinks. Pitch speeds range from 30 to 55 miles per hour for ages 5–9 and from to 40 to 90 miles per hour for ages 10 and older, topping out at 90 miles per hour in a cage suited for professional-level players. The facility also hosts an auxiliary batting cage, which up to 12 players may rent to test their stadium-light-shattering abilities.
In Bricks 4 Kidz hands-on programs, kids can learn to build anything from a motorized amusement park to a duck. But the building blocks aren't real bricks—they're LEGO blocks. Each of the company's summer camps, after-school classes, and birthday parties center around building themed LEGO model plans, designed by engineers and architects. By building structures that fit a zoo theme or a Minecraft theme—or by creating Lego scenes for stop-motion animation—kids learn science and math, teamwork, and problem solving skills, while having fun and getting their masters in LEGO architecture along the way.
The Rockwell County program is helmed by husband and wife team Kevin and Natalie Shepherd, who share a passion for educating children in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects. To lead the program they utilize Natalie's background in counseling and play therapy, Kevin's knowledge as a practicing engineer, and their experiences parenting their daughter Sydney.