Around the shores of Jordan Lake, a squad of outdoor enthusiasts works to cultivate environmental stewardship in youngsters through discovery-based classes and events that disguise education in a cloak of fun. Codirectors Eleanor Herr and Denise Nelson both possess a passion for nature, degrees in early-childhood education, and the creativity to combine the two into exciting programs.
Lessons and field trips designed for public- or home-schooled children instill a love of nature while adhering to the Common Core State and North Carolina Essential Standards for education. Events for kids and their families, such as a full-moon night hike with a campfire, encourage bonding that can strengthen telepathic communication during future potato-sack races. Weekly nature camps for ages 6–11 keep young brains blossoming in the summer. Jordan Lake Environment Education also hosts birthdays, replete with themed activities, coloring books, and free time for any self-provided cake and refreshments.
Playworks organizes activities that motivate kids to stay active during recess and developmental afterschool programs such as volleyball. Its coed volleyball league encourages inclusive and invigorating play after school for fourth- and fifth-grade students in nine public and charter partner schools around Durham. Teams of 10–12 players incorporate social activity into their play while developing agility, teamwork skills, and spatial awareness in a safe environment. Playworks needs additional funding for registration fees for the volleyball players, which covers the costs of organization, staff time, and equipment.
Youngsters bound across a sea of slides and playground equipment spread across the 6,500-square-foot indoor oasis at PlayNation Parties & Playgrounds of Morrisville. Rescue play time from the evil grips of rain, cold weather, and homework taped to meteorites by heading indoors for uninterrupted fun during open-play hours—Tuesday–Friday afternoons and select times on weekends. Kids burn energy as they climb on wooden playsets and rock walls, hang around on tire swings, and jump to their heart's content in a bouncy castle. Wee little ones can toddle around Breckenridge Village, a separate play area with two wooden playhouses designed specifically for pint-size citizens. Admission transfers a full day of action to each child, and punch cards can cover a single child for multiple visits or a herd of wild things for a single day.
While the kids are at play, adults relax in PlayNation's two parent lounges, which come equipped with flat-screen TVs, comfy seats, and a Wii gaming station. The sheltered playground floods every chamber with light so parents can clearly pick out their progeny. It also sports a colorful foam floor to help prevent boo-boos resulting from tiny tumbles or attempts to stage a children's production of Cliffhanger.
Founded in 1902, when everyone walked uphill both ways, the Bulls have evolved into one of the country's best-known minor-league teams. Boasting a rich history and talented prospects making their way to the majors, the Bulls play in the 15-year-old Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Featuring a 10,000-seat capacity, comfy extra-wide seating, a new video board, and a sublime view of the bull perched atop the 32-foot Blue Monster in left field, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park is a superb place to witness the 2009 AAA National Champions run, hit, and skillfully communicate with a flurry of dexterous semaphore. Stocked with young talent, the Bulls will showcase several players in 2010 that are sure to soon end up on a major-league roster. Inspired by 23-year-old Desmond Jennings—who posted a .325 batting average and .419 on-base percentage last year—and 22-year-old, hard-throwing Jeremy Hellickson—who fanned 70 batters and walked only 15 in 57.1 innings—the Bulls are primed for another title run through an action-packed schedule this year.
Though many students come to Mathnasium having fallen behind their classmates, a mathematically advanced child sparked the learning program’s creation. As founder Larry Martinek’s young son, Nic, developed an appetite for higher-level math concepts, Larry found himself developing an entirely new teaching language to explain them in an age-appropriate way. The kind of instincts he sought to build up couldn’t be nurtured by drills and rote memorization. Instead, they required a deeper understanding of the principles at the root of mathematical operations, delivered in a way that grade-school kids could apply throughout their academic careers.
In just a decade’s time, Larry and his team have established Mathnasium centers in most U.S. states and more than a dozen other countries. At each, tutors who earned a 700 or higher on the math portion of the SAT develop custom learning plans for students in grades K–12 based on The Mathnasium Method. The system combines an education strategy of conceptual, tactile, and visual techniques with a curriculum structure that ensures kids can count, think proportionally, and tell the difference between a multiplication sign and a plus sign by scent alone. Tutors allow some time each session to help students with the concepts in their math homework, and the centers regularly check report cards and standardized tests as further measures of progress.
A comedic abode of gut-busting proportions, DSI has hosted hundreds of joke slingers that have corralled scores of laugh-seeker smiles without nitrous-oxide tanks or clips of football-privates contact. A company of 45 active performers lives underneath the 84-seat non-smoking theater, constantly training with dummy microphones and audience dummies to provide optimal quip delivery. Owner Zach Ward leads this comedic cabal, and also has trained and worked with nationally known giggle catalysts of Saturday Night Live and MADtv fame. Visitors will be able to choose from a variety of scheduled Friday- and Saturday-night shows, including improv slams, stand-up, and slide shows of platypus photos.