Category Archives: Educational

Five Outdoor, Family-Friendly, and Free Off-the-Beaten-Path Places to Explore in DC

[Note: This guest post was written by JoAnn Hill, a DC area educator and author of the upcoming book “Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.”  Here, she gives us a preview of what’s on those pages — some that I didn’t even know about and can’t wait to discover!]

 

The past year has undoubtedly presented unprecedented challenges and unforeseen changes for all of us. Concerns over the long-term impact on our mental health continue to grow. In a new study published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers found that experiencing new things on a daily basis led to more positive emotions every day. While international and far-away destinations may currently be out of reach for many, we Washingtonians must remember that we are luckier than most to have a bevy of places to visit right in our own backyard.  Now that springtime is upon us, it’s time to shake off that cabin fever, get outside, and become a tourist in the city we proudly call home.

Below are five outdoor, family-friendly, off-the-beaten-path places to explore around our beloved nation’s capital. All featured sites are free and just begging to be explored. Check out local DC author JoAnn Hill’s book Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure to discover dozens of additional distance and family-friendly spots in and around the Washington, DC, area.

 

Big Chair

“Sitting Pretty: The Best Seat in the Neighborhood”

Washington, DC, is a metropolis often defined by its enormity: huge government, monumental memorials, and immense power. It turns out a gigantic chair can also be added to DC’s long list of historical, recognizable, and sizeable landmarks.

Looming over the intersection of Martin Luther King Avenue and V Street in the southeast neighborhood of Anacostia, the colossal chair is hard to miss, and it has become an area icon. Coming in at an impressive 19.5 feet tall and a hefty 4,600 pounds, in 1959, the Big Chair it was identified as the largest chair in the world. The furniture company that created the chair, however, had its eyes on an even bigger prize.

They thought the chair would be even more compelling if they hired an individual live on top of the chair inside a glass cube. A glass home was constructed, complete with curtains along with a bed, shower, toilet, and television. The cube also had three transparent sides, allowing passersby to see its occupant. Rebecca Kirby, a 19-year-old model, was hired to live inside the cube. Kirby managed to stay there for an impressive 42 days, before it became too taxing, and she decided to come back down.

Today, a replica of the famed chair prominently towers over the same intersection, having replaced the deteriorating original back in 2005.

Read All About It:  Dive deeper into this peculiar story on pages 172-173 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore: Consider pairing your visit to the Big Chair with lunch on the Busboys and Poets’ outdoor patio, a mere two-minute walk away.

Where: 1001–1199 V St. SE, Washington, DC: A 10-minute walk from the Anacostia Metro Station.

 

 

Boundary Stones

“Set in Stone”

Geocachers, history buffs, and adventurists rejoice! Thanks to George Washington and a thorough team of surveyors, individuals can spend their weekends enjoying the imminent warm weather by exploring nearly 40 stone markers that helped set the boundary lines of our nation’s capital city.

In 1790, Washington selected the 100-square-mile site on the Potomac River between the busy ports of Alexandria, Virginia, and Williamsport, Maryland to serve as the nation’s new capital city. Shortly thereafter, planning for an approximate survey of the ten- mile square began, and astronomer and surveyor Benjamin Banneker and his team began to mark the diamond-shaped boundary of DC. They started at its most southern tip and established the south of the square at Jones Point in Alexandria. A ceremonial stone from 1794 still sits here along the Potomac River, commemorating the starting point of the District’s boundary line.  Forty stones were put in place featuring the engraving “Jurisdiction of the United States” on one side and “Maryland” or “Virginia” on the other, as well as the year of its placement and distance from the initial stone.

Throughout the years, many of the stones have either been removed, lost, or buried. Over time, the outline of DC has changed significantly, leaving the stones in unusual locations and in various conditions. Some can be found along sidewalks and in front yards, while others are located in dense forests. Some locations have plaques either attached to the stones or in place of those missing.

Read all about it: Discover more about the history of these historical stones on pages 140-141 of Secret Washington, DC:  A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore: boundarystones.org has mapped out each boundary stone’s location and displays pictures of each stone, showing them enclosed in iron, concealed behind grates, or visibly set out on display. Which boundary stones will you and your family begin exploring first?

Where: Various locations are spread out along the perimeter of Washington’s diamond-shaped border.

 

 

Chuck Brown Memorial Park

“Art Imitates Life and Go-Go Plays On”

After being considered the unofficial music of Washington, DC, for nearly 50 years, Go-Go was finally declared the official sound of the nation’s capital in February 2020. No artist has had a greater impact on Go-Go than born-and-bred Washingtonian Chuck Brown. The legendary godfather of Go-Go is credited with creating the genre and helping embed it into the cultural fabric of Washington, DC.

The Go-Go pioneer is so beloved that on August 22, 2014, which would have been his 78th birthday, the city dedicated a section of Langdon Park to the artist, naming it Chuck Brown Memorial Park. A 16-foot-tall abstract art sculpture, named “Wind Me Up, Chuck” by local sculptor and creator Jackie Braitman, was installed near the park’s entrance. The unique art structure stands near the park’s playground and includes colorful instruments for children complete with interactive pulsing lights aligned to funky beats and percussive instruments just begging to be played. Displayed near the art installation is a mosaic retaining wall chronicling 10 moments and images from Brown’s vibrant life.

Looking for even more displays of the city’s love and admiration for the Go-Go icon?  Several murals throughout the district vibrantly feature the revered star and the street at the 1900 block of 7th Street NW where it crosses with Florida Avenue NW has been named Chuck Brown Way.

Read all about it: Discover more about the history of these historical stones on pages 120-121 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore: The park is great to visit anytime. For an even more lively and memorable outing, join the fellow fans and residents every August 22nd to honor the late musician for Chuck Brown Day.

Where: Chuck Brown Memorial Park, 2901 20th St. NE, Washington, DC: Closest metro station is Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood Station (about a 25-minute walk).

 

 

DC Callbox Art Project

“A Wake-Call: A Tribute to Women”

For centuries, history books, monuments, and memorials have overwhelmingly cast a spotlight on male figures. Out of some 160 monuments and memorials in the capital region, just over 50 statues include women. A local artist and an ambitious project answered the call to change that.

The DowntownDC BID and the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities partnered with artist Charles Bergen to reimagine nine nonfunctioning call boxes as public art installations. Throughout the 19th century, cast-iron call boxes served as an early emergency alert system predating telephones and two-way radio systems. These call boxes are still scattered across the city, but they haven’t been in operation since the 1970s. Bergen worked with urban historian Mara Cherkasky to identify nine prominent women throughout history for the project. The esteemed group of female trailblazers includes Gospel street musician Flora Molton and expressionist painter Alma Thomas. Each callbox includes a sculpture inside, usually with a painted metal symbol that represents the woman’s contribution (a guitar for Molton, for example), and dates of birth and death.

Read All About It: Learn more about how these extraordinary women made history on pages 178-179 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore: Grab your walking shoes and head downtown to explore these intricately designed call boxes while paying homage to nine noteworthy women.

Where: Many of these callboxes can be found between 13th and 15th streets NW, between G and L streets and are a short walk from Metro Center Station.

 

 

Mini Washington Monument Replica

“Seeing Double: A Hidden Mini Replica”

Perhaps no other monument in Washington, DC, encapsulates the nation’s capital’s history and patriotism more than the Washington Monument. As a national symbol honoring the country’s first president, the Monument has been a long- standing favorite landmark among both DC residents and tourists. Fans of the Monument will be thrilled to learn that there is not only one Washington Monument to marvel at, but actually two! Visitors can double their fun by uncovering a hidden 12-foot replica of the monument, buried underneath a nearby manhole cover.

Officially known as Bench Mark A, the underground duplicate actually serves as a Geodetic Control Point that’s primarily used by surveyors. It’s part of the system of a million control points across the nation that assists the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) synchronize all of the government’s maps. When it was selected, the underground monument copy was somewhat of an unusual choice. Typically, items like metal cups or rods that are planted into the ground are used, not mini monuments.

The smaller-scaled replica used to be above ground before being enclosed in a brick chimney and buried. In February 2019, the National Park Service unveiled the mini monument to the public for the first time.. The replica’s visibility was short-lived; shortly after its reveal, it was concealed again underneath its manhole cover.

Read All About It: Learn more about how these extraordinary women made history on pages 38-39 of Secret Washington, DC.

Go and Explore: Want to see the mini-monument for yourself? Head down to the National Mall, find the nearest park ranger, and ask them to uncover it!

Where: Buried under a manhole cover just south of the Washington Monument, which is located at 2 15th St. NW, Washington, DC: Closest metro station is Smithsonian.

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JoAnn Hill has lived in Washington, DC, with her husband Thalamus and dog Jackson for over 19 years. An avid traveler and foodie, JoAnn writes about their DC living and dining experiences, as well as their global travel adventures, on her blog dcglobejotters.org. Her writing has been published in BELLA Magazine, Escape Artist, and Triptipedia. JoAnn served as a DC Public Schools teacher for 17 years before co-founding Capitol Teachers, a tutoring company servicing the greater DC area. This is her first book.

 

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Filed under 2021, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Educational, Outdoor, Social Distancing

Books Worth Buying for Little Ones

[Note: This post was written by KFDC contributor Emily Moise, a local mom of two young children.]

 

Remember libraries? Sigh… Once a weekly go-to, now a distant memory for my kids, and likely yours, too. In their absence, our book collection has grown. Acquiring books during the pandemic has been akin to stocking up on frozen vegetables. You’re gonna need those books — and they’re good for you.

Between our own book purchases (often an alternative to buying one more plastic toy), generous extended family — including a great-aunt that used to work at a children’s bookstore — and our neighborhood’s Little Free Libraries, we’ve been fortunate, and we’ve been reading.

Many of our books end up being read obsessively for a week, never to be child-selected again (ahh, the beauty of libraries!). But there are some that we keep going back to. The ones we’ve all memorized and have stolen phrases from for our everyday kid conversations. The ones that were totally worth buying…

 

The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss (Happy Birthday to the beloved author!)

We’ve ventured far into the wacky world of whosits and whatsits, but we always return to the gold standard. Every preschooler is exploring their autonomy and nothing illustrates the wild possibilities better. Plus, it’s so apropos for the times, Sally and boy with nothing to do.

Other Seuss/Seuss-inspired favorites: There’s a Wocket in My Pocket, Because a Bug Went Ka-choo! [KFDC Note: Someone just brought this to my attention about Dr. Seuss books.]

 

 

Freight Train, Donald Crews

This one is a must for the little train lover in your life. It’s short and simple, but will stop your busy toddlers in their tracks until it’s “going, going…gone!”. They won’t even realize they are learning their colors and prepositions, in addition to the trivial train lingo.

Another vehicle favorite: Good Night, Little Blue Truck

 

 

Nanette’s Baguette, Mo Willems

Reading is ten times more fun with the built-in theatrics that Mo Willems provides. This one is longer than his classics, but the plot is no more complex. Nanette must bring home a baguette before eating it all and being “beset with regret.” Show me a more clever rhyming book—I’ll wait!

Other Willems favorites: Waiting is Not Easy, The Pigeon Needs a Bath

 

 

The Good Egg, Jory John

From a young age we are taught to be “good,” which often leads to “perfect,” including everything around us. Relatable? Kids and adults alike will enjoy this one and the humorous way it teaches us to be kind to ourselves and accepting of others.

Also in the series: The Bad Seed, The Cool Bean, The Couch Potato

 

 

Mixed: A Colorful Story, Arree Chung

For preschoolers, the most powerful books on race use concepts and visuals from their own small worlds. This age-appropriate story about embracing our differences uses the whole color wheel and cartooned facial expressions to show how diversity makes a better place for all.

Other favorites that celebrate our differences: My Friend Maggie, Carrot & Pea

 

 

I Just Forgot, Mercer Mayer

There’s just something about Little Critter books—which were favorites of mine as a kid too. My youngest likes finding the hidden critters on each page. I assume my daughter can relate to the “I have more agency than you think” attitude mixed with the “mistakes are ok” messages.

Other Little Critter favorites: Just a Snowman, I Was So Mad

 

 

Tickle Time!, Sandra Boynton

Up your tickle time game with this simple board book by a classic author. Kids of all ages will enjoy the nonsensical strings of made up words, followed by being tickled high and low, and left and right. It’s a perfect almost-bedtime book when you need to reign the giggles into bed.

Another Boynton favorite: Dinosaur Dance

 

 

The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson

If I’ve learned anything from my countless hours of Paw Patrol viewing, it’s that kids love repetition and formulaic storytelling. The Gruffalo does this well, taking you on a journey through the woods and back again with masterful rhyming and humor.

Also in the series: The Gruffalo’s Child

 

 

Tuesday, David Wiesner

My daughter had me “read” her a word-less book for months, as if she was trying to memorize my ever-changing story. The almost word-less Tuesday will teach anyone the power of good illustration and storytelling. Bonus: you can make the story as short or as long as needed!

Another unconventional favorite: The Book with No Pictures

 

 

Benny and Penny in Just Pretend, Geoffrey Hayes

This comic style book depicts the love-hate relationship between young siblings better than I’ve seen anywhere else. Benny doesn’t want anything to do with his sister Penny, until he does. When he called her a dumb, bad little sister, well, that was just pretend.

Another favorite from the series: Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!

 

*What are your must-have children’s books? Share in the comments!

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Filed under 2021, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Educational, Preschoolers, Shop, Toddlers

Guest Post: My Favorite Preschool Age Toys for the Pandemic Age

[Note: This post was written by KFDC contributor Emily Moise, a local mom, writer, and navigator of pandemic life with two young children.]

 

It’s that point in the pandemic winter where I just want all the things that will keep my little ones busy. And I mean busy quickly, independently, and for extended periods of time. The allure of the @busytoddler DIY sensory and creative play has faded as pandemic-fatigue has left me with little set-up and clean-up energy to expend. My son is also in the “sudden burst of throwing everything” phase. He can have his rice sensory bin this summer, outdoors.

Over the past year, my almost 2 and 3.5 year-olds have gone through many play phases and explorations. My daughter’s puzzle obsession has left us with cabinets full of them for another day. Our crafts corner is fully stocked, waiting for the moment it will finally be utilized unprompted. A supply of Legos is ready for its heyday, and stronger hands. Only a short list of items have risen to the top for us, consistently used eagerly and unsolicited.    Here are my tried and true items for preschoolers.

 

Climbing Rope Swing

This rope swing may be my best purchase of 2020. I had seen them around my neighborhood hanging from large trees — which we don’t have. After some assurance from Pinterest that they could be used indoors, we installed one in our basement this past fall. My 3-year-old has sustained enthusiasm for it since then, and even sneaks off downstairs to use it unprompted. It has a long life ahead holding up to 120 lbs. 

 

Magnetic Tiles

Magnetic tiles have been a household favorite for awhile but made a big resurgence when my son was old enough to join in — aside from being the tower destroyer. Now, both kids will play with these together for up to an hour. We recently added a set with gears to our collection, plus some window and door tiles, and are on the lookout for more accessory sets like this

 

Melissa & Doug Activity Pads

This brand is a classic for a reason! Their activity pads are my favorites, giving us lots of extended and/or independent play. My kids can do these Scissor Skills activities (with assistance) for an oddly long time, and do these reusable Puffy Sticker books over and over again. These Seek & Find sticker pads are my go-to when I need some uninterrupted time, and this one has quiet time written all over it. The painting pads with built in watercolors like this are genius. 

 

Board & Card Games

We’ve tried a dozen games during the past year but only a few are in heavy rotation. The trick has been finding ones that don’t exclude my youngest child, and bonus points when it’s mildly entertaining for the grown-ups. Zingo is as good as you’ve heard. We’ve had success teaching our little ones to play Go Fish, even if they are playing with open hands. Disney’s Eye Found It! is a winner, and there is a board version.

 

Playdoh

I had an aha moment with Playdoh at the start of the pandemic but it went out of favor after I realized it had to be cleaned up and capped — quickly — to avoid drying out, and also monitored to make sure someone didn’t smush ten new colors into one brown blob. After trying the alternatives, I brought the ‘doh back into the rotation, and I get it again. It just works so well for all preschool ages, especially if you add the right tools to the mix. 

 

Bath Puzzles

At some point, every parent realizes that bath toys are no good. The mold is annoying at best and dangerous at worst. I recently discovered bath puzzles with foam pieces that stick to the tub and walls without holes to collect or squirt water. Perfect for a much-needed extended bath time! After a quick search, I have a few more on my wish list like this alphabet set and this numbers set. This one is cute too.

 

Honorable Mentions

Building toy alternatives like Flower Gardens and LeapBuilders products (more toddler-friendly than Duplo’s) have given us lots of independent play. My eldest preschooler enjoys workbooks, particularly the mazes which don’t require much assistance, and the dry erase ones where mistakes are welcome. 

 

*What are your go-to items? Share in the comments and help a mom out!

 

 

 

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Filed under Coronavirus, COVID-19, Educational, Guest Post, Indoor Play, Preschoolers, Social Distancing, Toddlers

Spring Enrollment Open for Live Virtual Programs with Young Playwrights’ Theater!

 

Do you know a young person with an interest in creative writing and a story to tell? The Digital Playwriting Program at Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT) is a virtual, live-taught program for students interested in playwriting. Virtual classes for each school level (elementary, middle, and high) take place bi-weekly for six weeks with a YPT teaching artist on Zoom. Students will be able to craft their own play while supporting their fellow students in writing through constructive feedback and peer review.

Spring 2021 Workshop Schedule: February 22 – April 1, 2021

Elementary School students (Grades 3 – 5)
Mondays and Wednesdays, 3:30-4:15pm

Middle School students (Grades 6 – 8)
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:30-4:15pm

High School students (Grades 9 – 12)
Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:15-5pm

Tuition for the 12-workshop series is $30, and KidFriendly DC readers can take 50% off with code ypt-kf50.

YPT is committed to making our programs accessible to everyone; to learn more about tuition assistance or for more information about this program, please contact our Programs Team at [email protected].

ENROLL TODAY!

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Calling Rising 10th and 11th Graders
: Apply to SAFER (Students Advocating for the Eradication of Racism)!

Applications are now open for YPT’s new after-school program for high school youth to expand the possibilities of storytelling and performance.

SAFER (Students Advocating For the Eradication of Racism) is a social advocacy and arts education program for 10th and 11th-grade students living in the Washington, DC metropolitan area who are committed to promoting racial justice in their communities through their collective creativity. Over the course of a school year, students will learn and practice the skills required to organize and galvanize their communities and will showcase those skills through a theatrical performance event.

All applications and letters of recommendation are due June 11, 2021. If selected, interviews will be held virtually the week of June 28.

For more information, visit the website, or contact YPT Programs at [email protected]

APPLY TODAY!

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About Young Playwrights’ Theater
Young Playwrights’ Theater is an award-winning arts education organization and theater company in Washington, DC. YPT inspires young people to realize the power of their own voices through high-quality arts education programming and productions. Learn more at yptdc.org.

 

This post is sponsored by Young Playwrights’ Theater, however, I only promote programs, places, and services that I genuinely believe in and think would appeal to KFDC readers.

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Filed under 2021, All ages, Class, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Educational, Gradeschoolers, High Schoolers, Middle Schoolers, Social Distancing, Spring, Theatre, Virtual Programs, Weekdays