© Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by Julie Markes.
Time to embrace all things pumpkin, surround ourselves with colorful gourds and squashes, and of course see our kids returning from play in Prospect Park with bright red, yellow and orange leaves stuck in their hair! Searching for activities to enjoy this beautiful season? Here are events both local to Brooklyn and a bit further out if you’re looking to explore (scroll down for Halloween-specific events).
October 1st, 11am-6pm - Chile Pepper Festival 2017 (Brooklyn Botanical Gardens): Enjoy a day filled with live performances by mariachi bands and music from all around the world including India, Columbia and Cuba. There will be fire breathing, sword swallowing, and other fiery feats. Check out the many food artisans, including more hot sauces than you can imagine, chili chocolates and of course ice cream! Kids can pot up a pepper plant to take home. https://www.bbg.org/visit/event/chile_pepper_festival_2017
Now through October 31st, 10am-6pm - Scarecrows and Pumpkins (NY Botanical Gardens, Bronx): Enjoy this bountiful time of year with eye-popping pumpkins, spooky scarecrows, and plenty of fun. Explore more than 100 friendly scarecrows set among rare and unusual pumpkins and gourds in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden. Throughout this fall celebration of frights and fun, take part in special activities and demonstrations featuring creepy creatures, hands-on crafts, and more. https://www.nybg.org/event/scarecrows-pumpkins/
Saturdays and Sundays through October 29th - The Amazing Maize Maze (Queens County Farm Museum, Queens): Kids and adults alike will have fun finding their way out of this 3-acre corn labyrinth! The adventure begins with a "Stalk Talk" to prepare you for the challenge of finding clues, solving puzzles, and making your way out of the maze. $10/adult and $5/child (ages 0-3 are free). You can hop on an F train (and then bus), or it’s a short drive away. http://www.queensfarm.org/events.html
October 7th, 12-4pm - Annual Pumpkin Festival (Willowbrook Park, Staten Island): Bright orange pumpkins are reasonably priced, and the pumpkin patch is a great backdrop for photos! Kick off the day with "Music with Patrick," and all are invited to sing and dance along! Quiver Farms Petting Zoo will visit for a portion of the day. Lots of other nature-based activities are in store. And we can’t forget - carousel rides for just $2.00 per spin. https://www.nycgovparks.org/events/2017/10/07/annual-pumpkin-festival-at-the-carousel-for-all-children
October 7th-9th, 1:30pm-5:30pm - Dig! Plant! Grow! Scarecrow Weekend (NY Botanical Gardens, Bronx): It’s time to make scarecrows! Help dress up one scarecrow per family to fill the garden with friendly faces. Plant and prepare for fall, explore the garden, and make marigold jewelry. https://www.nybg.org/event/dig-plant-grow-scarecrow-weekend/
October 28th, 12pm-5:30pm - Ghouls and Gourds 2017 (Brooklyn Botanical Gardens): A full day of fun to be had - including stilt dancing, live music, a marching band, dance performances. The kids can build a spider web, hang out with worms and bugs and play games with a “veggie” theme! Brussel sprout bowling, anyone? https://www.bbg.org/visit/event/ghouls_gourds_2017
October 28th, 3pm - Laurie Berkner’s Band Monster Boogie Halloween Concert (The Concert Hall at NY Society for Ethical Culture, Manhattan): What small child is not obsessed with The Laurie Berkner Band? She’ll be playing classics like “Pig on her Head” as well as some fun Halloween jams! Come in costume, and attendees are encouraged to bring stuffed animals (to put on their heads of course). $39/ticket (1YO and under are free). http://www.ticketfly.com/event/1531698-laurie-berkner-bands-monster-new-york/
October 29th, 11am-4pm - Children’s Fall Festival (Queens County Farm Museum, Queens): Dress in costume for this fall celebration! Kids will love the bounce houses, traditional games, pie-eating contests, and cartoon character look-alikes. Boogie down to live country western music, take an autumn hayride, visit the Haunted House, and enjoy a pony ride and farm animals. Stop by the Con Edison Ecology booth for free kids' crafts and recycling tips. There will be food vendors on the farm all day. $20/children & adults. http://www.queensfarm.org/events.html
And let us not forget - HALLOWEEN!!! You picked out your costumes, you’re ready to go. BUT WHAT WILL YOU DO??? Here are some ideas for how we can get into the spooky spirit with our kids.
October 28th, 11am-3pm - Haunted High Line Halloween (Manhattan, NY): Travel back in time and learn the history of the High Line. Get into character with artistic face painting, capture memories with our old-time photo booth, dance, go on a scavenger hunt with candy, and watch live performances. On the High Line between 14th St. to 16th St. | Enter at 14th St. and 10th Ave. Please note this program takes place at two locations between 14th St. and 16th St., but only requires one RSVP. For detailed listing of all events and to RSVP, go to: http://www.thehighline.org/activities/haunted-high-line-halloween-family-event
Through October 29th - Halloween Harvest (Luna Park, Coney Island): An amazing pumpkin patch, face painting, pony rides, music, games, arts and crafts, and magic shows! And dog lovers - don’t forget about the Harvest Dog Parade & Costume Contest on October 14th. http://lunaparknyc.com/events/halloween-harvest/
October 28th, 12pm-3pm - Halloween in Prospect Park (Lookout Hill & Nethermead, Prospect Park): Encounter zombies, werewolves, witches, and other Halloween characters on a haunted walk through the woodland Lookout Hill, ideal for families with children ages 7-12. All ages can enjoy a festive Halloween Fair on the Nethermead, featuring family-friendly activities, as well as sweet and savory treats from some of the city’s top food trucks.https://www.prospectpark.org/news-events/events/2017/10/28#halloween-prospect-park-2017
October 28th, 1pm-4pm - Creepy, Crawly Halloween (Prospect Park): Take a second look at the creatures that give you the creeps, you may find you like them! Participate in fun activities and experiments that will make your spine tingle - like discovery boxes, owl pellet dissection, a creepy crawly walk and an animal encounter. https://www.prospectpark.org/news-events/events/2017/10/28#creepy-crawly-halloween-2017
October 28th and 29th - Boo at the Zoo (Prospect Park Zoo): Don’t miss this annual Halloween event. This year they’ve got a costumed character scavenger hunt, face painting, spooky barn, and of course plenty of animals. $8/adult, $5/child. 2YO & under: free. https://prospectparkzoo.com/events
October 31st, 6:30pm - The Park Slope Halloween Parade!!! This parade kicks off at 14th St and 7th Ave and will end at the Old Stone House. Always a fun time to be had! http://parkslopeciviccouncil.org/event/annual-halloween-parade-2017/
With our little ones just starting school, we thought it would be meaningful to talk to a seasoned expert in the field about her views on public education and the Common Core method of teaching. Stephanie Doran has been in the field of education for over 17 years, as a classroom teacher and teacher-mentor and trainer in NY and FL. Stephanie has worked in both the public and private sector, in traditional classrooms and Montessori settings. In addition, Stephanie presents in national conferences on both math and collaborative classroom strategies.
SSP: A very general question to start the conversation - what are your thoughts on the state of public education in this country, specifically as it relates to elementary aged children?
Our education system, or the foundation for the educational system, was created in the early 1900’s to prepare children to work in factories. Unfortunately not much has changed in that system. Now we have a completely different society where we don’t need to memorize facts, but rather create critical thinkers and problem solvers. Our education system needs to be completely revamped and teachers need to be taught strategies to teach students to become those problem solvers that we need.
SSP: What do you see as the biggest hurdle facing this country when it comes to education?
Many teachers and parents remember how they were taught, to memorize and produce that information for a test and then move on. Today, our students need to understand big concepts rather than memorize facts. That can be uncomfortable for parents who might not understand why students are being taught these different strategies. Now, it’s more important to understand the process and to get a handle on the critical thinking. That’s more important than answering a fact for an answer on a test.
SSP: How do we, as parents, help?
Be open minded. Understand the way we learned a topic is not necessarily the best way, and that there is more than one way to learn. Also, it’s important to ask your children open-ended questions. For example, ask students “What do you think about this?” And help them become critical thinkers versus memorizers. Also, letting them struggle and make mistakes is very important. There is a lot of research that shows your brain grows when you make a mistake. So we must allow them to make mistakes. It’s OK to struggle. This is key.
SSP: On the flip side, how have you seen education improve over the last couple of decades, and what made those positive changes happen?
The goals of the common core standards are positive, because as educators it creates benchmarks for our students. And I think more teacher colleges are embracing and teaching different strategies and ways to approach a topic. More teachers are starting to see themselves as facilitators of learning instead of directors of learning.
SSP: The enthusiastic debate continues around common core (or as it has just recently been revised and renamed in NY as “The Next Generation English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards”). What are your thoughts on it, and do you truly believe it sets our children up to be successful in college and life?
I believe that yes, it does, if it is facilitated and implemented properly. I think that more teachers need to be trained correctly. By being trained correctly, they will know how to properly teach the strategies. Many teachers do not get the professional development that they need or the support that they need, so they don’t understand how this works, what it looks like, and how to change the classroom. Bottom line is that teachers need the proper support to let go and let the children become independent thinkers.
SSP: How do we as parents help our child and support this “new” way of thinking when it is completely foreign to how we learned?
Here are some specific strategies: No matter what your kids ages are, when you are reading to your child, stop and ask questions. “I wonder what the main character will do next”? Or “That’s interesting..what do you think about that”? Also math-wise, try to get your kids involved in everyday discussions about math. For the younger ones, think about asking “There are 4 of us at dinner - how many plates and forks do we need? How many do we need in all? Can we count by 2’s”? For the older kids, it might be: “Let’s make our grocery list. What does each cost, and what is our budget”?
SSP: What advice do you have to give to parents in regards to best supporting their child throughout the younger school years?
I think it’s important to get involved and understand what is happening in the classroom and to allow your child to be that independent thinker and problem solver. If they bring homework home, try to let them get through it on their own first. If they say “I need help”, ask them specifically “What do you need help with”? Then, “Let’s read the directions together”. Afterwards ask “What do you know”? And then “What do you need to know, what do you wonder”?
SSP: What can we do to help bring positive change to the public school system - is there anything we can do on a grassroots level?
Teachers need training and development. Think about starting or supporting an existing teacher development fund. OR…gift your teacher a membership to NCTM, the national council of teachers for mathematics (there are memberships for other areas of study as well). It’s a great resource for ideas, they provide newsletters, updates and provide free professional modules to the members for professional development (learning a concept, etc). Whatever their professional development resource of choice, it’s around $100 a year but many teachers can’t afford to spend this.
Stephanie holds a Master’s of Science in Education, a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing, and is Montessori trained in both the Upper Elementary and Adolescent curricula.