Summer break is imminent. But even though that means no more school or books for 11 weeks, there are fun ways to keep our kids’ brains from turning to mush while they are away from the structured classroom environment.
One way to keep them learning and engaged is to feed their natural curiosity with an educational family field trip.
Kids will feel like insiders as they learn how things are made or what things are really like behind the scenes at some major operations in Pennsylvania.
Starting close to home, families can get a peek behind the scenes at Beaver Stadium during public tours over Arts Fest weekend, July 11 to 13. The Penn State All-Sports Museum runs the stadium tours, which include an opportunity to visit the media room, home team locker room, tunnel and field, recruits lounge and the Mount Nittany Club areas.
Tickets will go on sale July 1. The cost is $15 for adults and $10 for students, museum friends members and seniors older than 65. Purchase tickets by calling 800-NITTANY.
Get more information at www.gopsusports.com/museum.
If you’re going to be in Philadelphia this summer, take the kids to the largest coin factory in the world — the United States Mint.
U.S. coins have been produced at the mint since 1792, so you can bet that your self-guided tour will include some history lessons. You’ll also get in a glimpse at how the coins we use every day are created, from their inception and design to how they end up in cash registers and piggy banks.
The mint is open for tours from Monday through Saturday all summer.
Visit www.usmint.gov/mint_tours for more information.
If you’re interested in taking a road trip to Pennsylvania Dutch country this summer, you’ll find lots of great behind-the-scenes tours in the region.
The most popular is at Hershey’s Chocolate World — the Great American Chocolate Tour Ride, on which guests learn about the history of chocolate and how it is made.
This is not an actual behind-the-scenes tour, in that it does not take place in the actual factory. But it is still interesting and educational, and includes a chance to sample some chocolate at the end. Admission to Hershey’s Chocolate World is free.
Visit www.hersheys.com/chocolateworld for information.
While you are in the area, it is fun to visit Lititz, recently named America’s Coolest Small Town.
There you will find the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, America’s first commercial pretzel manufacturer. Built in 1784, the building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Tours include a chance to twist your own pretzel, and you’ll learn about the history of pretzel baking in America.
Get more information at www.juliussturgis.com.
There are many other behind-the-scenes tours available throughout Pennsylvania, including at the Utz Factory in Hanover, BWP Bats factory in Brookville, the Harley-Davidson factory in York, QVC Studios in West Chester and Yuengling Brewery in Pottsville.
So if you’re planning a road trip this summer, look for an opportunity to take the kids behind the scenes for a fun and educational experience.
Karen Walker is managing partner at 4KidsinPA.com. She lives in State College with her husband and two sons. She can be reached at Karen@4KidsinPA.com.