by Meredith Flory

As a military family, we try to explore each region we live in to learn more about the food, nature and culture of the area. When we explore with our children, those day trips are usually focused on child-friendly fun. With a little creativity, it’s possible to find affordable activities for the whole family that can encourage your children to keep reading during the summer months. Pairing activities with age appropriate books can not only help your children avoid a summer slump in learning but also make reading more engaging too. Here are suggestions for educational day trips for families in and around the CSRA for all budgets and age levels.

Summer Fun for Future Scientists

Many families consider a trip to the zoo during the summer, but as Children’s Librarian Natalie Pulley shared, “Our local libraries are a great resource to prepare for the trip.” Zoo Atlanta offers a partnership with Georgia Public Libraries where after a DVD rental, families are eligible for zoo passes. The library also has options for books to read with children and Pulley suggests Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell, Zoo-ah-choooo by Peter Mandel or Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally Walker. These books will help to get your little ones ready to learn about the animals at the zoo.

A great pairing for engaging small children in learning about agriculture is Blueberries for Sal and picking a container of berries with your little ones at a local farm. Secrets of the Vegetable Garden (Shine-A-Light Books), any of Beatrix Potter’s tales such as Gardening with Peter Rabbit or Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner are all perfect for a trip to the Hopeland Gardens in Aiken. You can also add an activity to the day by printing a nature scavenger hunt online. You can find scavenger hunts for certain colors, shapes, insects or plants at an appropriate difficulty level to work on observation skills. Reed Creek Nature Park and Phinizy Swamp also host family events, story times and opportunities for family nature walks – choose your own picture books on local wildlife or ask employees for their favorite suggestions at the visitor centers.

For teens, novels that tell stories of people working in the agricultural business or recounting the history of farming may be appropriate. If you have a teen with a green thumb, encourage reading a novel such as Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena Maria Viramontes, about a young migrant worker or see if classics such as The Good Earth or The Grapes of Wrath are options for summer reading. Make these challenging reads come alive with one of the outings suggested above or a trip to purchase items for planting their own garden in the backyard. Another option would be to inquire at Icebox Urban Farm in Augusta for volunteer opportunities. Tina Monaco, librarian for the Georgia Heritage Room at the Augusta-Richmond County Library, also suggests explorations at Heggie’s Rock Preserve in Columbia County run by the Nature Conservancy. Plan ahead of time as most tours are open on a limited basis.

For a budding engineer or physicist, pair a trip to an amusement park and check out the Amusement Park Physics Information sections on Anneberg Learner at or visit the Physics Classroom at to learn about the science behind the rides. For the young architect, have a librarian assist you in finding age appropriate books on architectural styles or purchase a learning kit, such as the T.S. Shure Introduction to Architecture Creativity Set and work together to identify different building styles in a historic district.    

Learning about Heritage through Play

For creative children who love hands on experiences, reading can be a way to delve deeper into an activity that they love. Books such as Little Women, or The Little House on the Prairie have accompanying cookbooks to teach young people more about the food and way of living presented in the book. Southern cookbooks provide another way to learn about our area. Help children choose and prepare themed food for a picnic at one of our state parks or river overlooks. Another option would be to take a teen out to a special restaurant, reading about the style of food, history of the area or etiquette beforehand.

Pulley informed me of the Georgia State Parks Library Loan program that allows families to check out park passes to historical sites and state parks, similar to checking out a library card. Quantities are limited, but this is a wonderful way for families on a tighter budget to experience educational outings.  For children that love comedy, puppets and animation, The Center for the Puppetry Arts in Atlanta also has a partnership with Georgia libraries and would pair well with watching a documentary on the Muppets, watching Sesame Street or reading a biography on Jim Henson. 

Exploring Regional History 

Georgia and South Carolina are rich in history and there are plenty of ways to make this history come alive for children and teens. Congressman John Lewis wrote a series of graphic novels, called March on his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. The reviews have been wonderful and the three book series is on my “to-read” list for the summer. Paired with a trip to the Center for Civil and Human Rights Center in Atlanta, this is a summer activity that is sure to be engrossing and moving for parents, pre-teens and teens alike. Another option closer to home is the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of African American History in Augusta. Monaco greatly encouraged visiting Edgefield, SC as a place to visit to understand history in the region and wrote to me about Dave the Potter, a slave during the 1800s. Dave the Potter could read and write and left autobiographical accounts sketched into jugs and other pottery. Old Edgefield Pottery run by the Edgefield Historical Society can give a historic look at the art and history of the area. Paired with age appropriate books on slavery, plantation life or pottery and this can make a fun outing for aspiring historians and artists.

Events at the Living History Park in North Augusta also provide a great opportunity to see history in action and my daughter always enjoys the town rat-catcher and toy maker during their reenactment events. John, Paul, George, and Ben is a humorous take by Lane Smith on the founding fathers you can read to your children beforehand to prepare for listening to reenactors. Coloring books or paper dolls that show the clothing of the era are also fun for afterwards. Nancy Glasser of the Augusta History Museum also points to their activities such as, The Hunt for History that can be found on their website or touch carts that are available upon request.  Look through Augusta in Vintage Postcards with older children  after a visit, and purchase postcards for them to practice their letter writing.

This article appears in the May/June 2017 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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