For parents with young children, the first day of school can be unpredictable. Children who select their first-day-of-school outfit a month in advance can unexpectedly turn into children who refuse to get out of bed, miss the bus, or cry in the car line.
Help your child ease back into school by focusing on positive activities. Drum up excitement by discussing potential special events or field trips the teacher has planned. You may even consider suggesting locations to your child’s teacher. Teachers are always on the lookout for new and exciting field trip locations.
With TEKS-aligned educator resources in topics ranging from ecology to ethnobotany, Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center and Mercer Botanic Gardens are popular field trip destinations close to home.
Last year, Mercer attracted more than 2,600 children from local day care centers, private and public schools, and homeschool groups.
The 300-acre facility includes a variety of cultivated gardens, an herbarium, and an arboretum as well as an extensive ginger collection and an Endangered Species & Native Plant Garden. Visitors looking for a more natural experience can explore the arboretum’s walking trails, a hickory bog, and a cypress swamp.
“Children need frequent experiences with nature,” said Mercer Education Director Jennifer Garrison. “There are many studies about the positive effects of being outdoors.
Exploring a green setting has a positive impact on every aspect of a child’s development. It increases observational skills, improves memory, reduces stress, and promotes environmental stewardship.”
Students can learn how early humans used plants in the Endangered Species & Native Plant Garden, identify native plants through a fun scavenger hunt, and use a compass to navigate the garden. Teachers are invited to pick up activity books with instructions on leading self-guided tours inside Mercer’s Visitor Center.
“The sights, sounds, and fragrances in the botanic gardens engage children’s senses, allowing them to observe even the tiniest of wonders,” said Garrison. “The west side arboretum is an exciting, natural area ready for curious children to discover the world around them. Whether children are studying science, math, history, language, or art, Mercer is a springboard to discovery.”
Docent-led tours are also available Tuesdays and Thursdays between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Tours are available for a minimum group size of 10 students and a maximum group size of 30 students. A student-chaperone ratio of 10 to 1 is required during docent-led tours.
Mercer also employs a team of experienced and knowledgeable botanists, horticulturists, and gardeners who will gladly assist visitors.
Jones Park spans 312 acres of piney woods and cypress bogs with a Nature Center, outdoor classroom, an 1820s homestead, an Akokisa Indian village, and an aquatics lab. Educators can also schedule a naturalist to lead a walk, talk, or demonstration in and around the Nature Center. Tours are available to a variety of grade levels.
In the last two years, the park has attracted 4,200 students from more than 100 different schools and organizations.
“We make it easy for educators to incorporate a trip to Jones Park into their lesson plans,” said Jones Park Director Darlene Conley. “Students can learn something different every year in history, nature, and aquatic studies.”
The Nature Center has mounted specimens of local wildlife, a touch and feel table of skeletons and skins, and a live reptile and snake display.
The 1820s Redbud Hill Homestead and Akokisa Indian village are staged with student re-enactors and available for guided tours.
“Students start out on a short hike through the woods and end up in a recreated 1830s homestead.” It’s like taking a step back in time. All our guides and re-enactors wear period-appropriate clothing and use tools of the trade to demonstrate settler life.”
Entrance into Jones Park is always free. Fourth grade students who attend a Title I school can also qualify for free transportation to Jones Park through the Every Kid in a Park program.
Can’t schedule a field trip? Let an expert come to your class instead! Discussions can include animal adaptations, habitats, environmental science, and more.
Want to learn more? Visit hcp4.net/parks.
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Houston, Texas 77002