Breathe fresh air into your kids’ remote learning

Breathe fresh air into your kids’ remote learning

Traverse City Tourism by Matt Vande Bunte

One of the challenges with the remote learning happening across Michigan this fall is that it can be difficult to replicate some things that happen in the classroom. Take a science lab, for example. Not every family has the tools to build electrical circuits or a variety of live animals to study.

Fortunately, places such as COGnition Science & Discovery Center offer a classroom away from the classroom. Among its interactive, hands-on exhibits, the Traverse City-area attraction has KEVA planks for kids to explore architecture and a generator bike where they can learn about and actually produce electricity. COGnition even has live animals to meet and hold including two hedgehogs, a handful of tortoises and a kindly ball python named Severus Snake.

“He’s very sweet and curious, which is the atmosphere we’re trying to encourage,” said Kimmee Wenkel, co-founder and executive director of the 4,000-square-foot facility on U.S. 31 in Beulah, west of Traverse City.

“COGnition is like a science playground. Families come and spend time with us, and we usually hear the most feedback from the moms who are trying to get out the door and their kids don’t want to leave.”

woman and child in the woods looking at the treesFewer than one of every six schools in Michigan is teaching every student in person every day of the week this fall, according to a Michigan State University study. That means many of the state’s 1.6 million students in kindergarten through 12th grade are spending at least some of their school week learning remotely, outside the classroom.

Of course, not all remote learning has to happen from home. If your family has children home from school full-time or even just a couple days a week, think about making their remote learning truly remote by taking a family field trip to supplement their learning.

Why not get away for a visit to COGnition, then make a weekend of it in the Traverse City area? It’s not like you’d be missing any football games and tailgate parties this fall, so come on up north. The Traverse City area is offering Fab Fall packages with discounted lodging and money-saving offers on things to do.

You don’t have to look hard to find family activities in Traverse City that are both fun and educational. You could practically create an entire lesson plan for every school subject!

Then, when the kids are done with school for the day, have a blast swimming in the hotel pool or crossing something special off your family’s bucket list, like cruising down a mountain on Michigan’s only Alpine slide!

Here are just a few of the places in the Traverse City area where your kids (and you, too!) can experience hands-on, active learning while they’re away from the classroom:

  • Let’s start the school day with some music! The Music House Museum in Williamsburg features a unique assortment of antique instruments including music applesboxes, player pianos, phonographs, jukeboxes and the Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ. With the collection going back to the 1700s, you’ll get a sense of the history of automated music and have fun seeing and hearing the rare, unfamiliar instruments. The museum offers guided one-hour tours daily through October, then only on weekends starting in November.
  • If apples cost $2 per pound at a U-pick farm and you find a dozen of the juiciest looking varieties that weigh a combined four pounds, what will be the total price of your harvest? What is the price per apple? Visiting a U-pick farm or farmers market in the Traverse City area is the perfect fall activity for your family. It can also be a math lesson in disguise! How many quarts of sweet cherries at a roadside market in the Traverse City area make a full pound? How much is a peck of apples? How about a bushel? However you measure it, the fresh fruits and vegetables in the Traverse City area are a delicious mid-day snack!
  • Of course, every school day has recess, right? What better way to enjoy fall in
    3 women looking at a piece of paper

    Jacob’s Farm has lots of fall recreation to enjoy including a corn maze that’s the size of 10 football fields!

    Michigan than to get lost in a corn maze and try to find your way out! Jacob’s Farm offers miles of twisting paths in a 10-acre maze that has a Michigan shipwrecks theme this fall. The farm also includes a U-pick fruit orchard and pumpkin patch. For lunch you can enjoy some farm fresh, kid-friendly food, and maybe an adult beverage, too.

  • For a fun geography lesson, drive up the Old Mission Peninsula to the 45th parallel, which is exactly halfway between the equator and the North Pole. Along the way, add some history to your day by checking out the log schoolhouse and old-fashioned general store in Old Mission Village and the 150-year-old Mission Point Lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula.
  • On the campus of Northwestern Michigan College, the Dennos Museum Center features one of the world’s largest collections of Inuit and Canadian Arctic art. There’s lots of great ideas to get kids engaged with the pieces on display. For an outdoor art experience, visit the Michigan Legacy Art Park. The park within Crystal Mountain Resort includes almost 50 contemporary sculptures along trails that run through a 30-acre forest preserve.
  • With remote learning requiring so much time behind a computer screen, physical education is as important as ever. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of recreational activities in the Traverse City area. The Grass River Natural Area, for example, offers 3.5 miles of easy hiking through a 1,500-acre preserve of forests, swamps, bogs and river shoreline. Keep an eye out for eagles and other wildlife! The Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area in Bellaire has over 30 miles of trails for hiking or biking through 10 distinct habitats that feature more than 20 species of trees and 100 different kinds of birds and flowers. Those are just two of the beautiful and unique places to go for a hike in the Traverse City area.
  • For a science experience by day, visit COGnition Science & Discovery Center in Beulah. COGnition is open by appointment Wednesdays through Saturdays this fall woman carries child on her shoulderswhen families can sign up for 2-hour visits. After dark, get your science fix by visiting the Joseph H. Rogers Observatory. During public viewing nights this fall you’ll be able to get a closeup look of not just the moon but also Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and, come November, the Orion Nebula some 1,800 light years away!


That’s just a sampling of the many fun, educational things to do for kids and families in the Traverse City area. The Traverse City Kids’ Guide has much more to explore this fall.

You could do the Dune Climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, pick up some sweets at Whirligig’s Candy & More at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, go for a bike ride on the TART Trail, take a scenic chairlift ride to the top of Schuss Mountain, go on a hayride or saddle up for a horseback ride, play disc golf on some of Michigan’s best courses, paddle through peaceful northern Michigan waters, ride the Crystal Coaster Alpine Slide and so much more.

Find a place to stay and start planning a family field trip for the ages!