Earth Day 2016 takes place on Friday, April 22. It’s a great time to celebrate and teach our children the importance of preserving our planet’s resources. Families will find plenty of ways to observe the occasion here in Marin County and the Bay Area, and we've created a list of local events that either celebrate Earth Day or help families learn about nature and the planet.
Fun Events for Earth Day
STEAM Saturday: Earth Day
San Rafael Public Library
Saturday, April 16, 11–11:45 am
STEAM powered stories, rhymes, songs, crafts, experiments, and sensory experiences for preschool children ages 3–6 and their caregivers. Please wear comfy clothes that are OK to get messy!Register at the Children’s Reference Desk, or at (415) 485-3322. Location: 1100 E Street, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
Spring is here, and it's time to enjoy a day on the farm! We're lucky to live in an area that's surrounded by some of the country's top agricultural producers, and some of them offer farm tours for the whole family. On a tour, you can meet animals, learn where your food comes from, and find out about the efforts that local farmers take to provide us with high quality food. My kids love to visit farms, especially at this time of year when there are plenty of baby animals to see.
Here are some of the farms in Marin and Sonoma County that offer public tours. Some are free, and some require advance reservations. Please keep in mind that these are all real working farms, some of which raise animals for human consumption. All these tours are suitable for families.
On Saturday and Sunday, April 30 and May 1, 2016, Sonoma County Farm Trails offers its annual Blossoms, Bees & Barnyard Babies event, where farm hosts will offer tours, activiites, demonstrations, animal petting, crafts for kids, and more. Some farms will offer snacks, lunches, and picnic sites. Admission is free. Learn more and register here.
Petaluma's Tara Firma Farms is a family-run farm that produces humanely raised chickens, pigs, turkeys, and cattle on 300 acres just across the Sonoma County line from Marin. In addition to raising and selling their products, they're committed to educating the public about life on the farm, healthy food, and environmentally sustainable agriculture.
One of the best things about Tara Firma Farms is that you can visit and take a fun free farm tour. Every Saturday and Sunday, Tara Firma farms offers family-friendly tours at noon (they'll add additional tour times in late spring and early summer). The tours are a fantastic farm experience for parents, kids, and anyone who wants to get an up-close-and-personal look at where their food comes from. Come experience the sights, sounds, and, yes, smells of the farm first-hand! Spring is a great time to visit, with green grass, wildflowers, and baby animals galore.
The unique Tender Tracks outdoor preschool program honors and respects the inherent need for young children to have ample time with nature, in order to develop a healthy bond and relationship to the natural world and all who dwell therein. Through stories, songs and explorations, children go on playful adventures into the heart of nature.
One of the strong components of Tender Tracks is it’s focus on loving presence with the children. The staff take the time that is needed to tend to the emotional, social, physical, mental and spiritual needs of each individual child and the group while opening to receive the support, guidance and wisdom of the natural world.
This time of year always has a way of making us ready for the warm days of spring and summer, especially after the warm weather preview we got last week. And of course with those thoughts of warm months come dreams of our spring and summer vegetable garden! For the last few years, we've really made an effort to put in a substantial vegetable garden in our backyard. The children love to help pick out the seeds, plant them, water the plants, and pick the vegetables (and eat them, too), so it's a fun, educational, and tasty experience for them. We also like the fact that we get to eat our own organically grown veggies!
Our first task of the season is to go get our seeds. We try to go the heirloom route—they're so much more fun than your plain old (ahem) garden variety vegetables—and we always buy our seeds at the Petaluma Seed Bank, the West Coast outpost of the fantastic Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri. They stock a vast array of seeds for a wide variety of vegetables, many of which you probably didn't know existed!
Living in Marin, you don't have to look far for a summer camp that takes advantage of some of the amazing natural resources we have right in our own backyard. Parents have several outstanding nature and outdoors oriented summer camps to choose from. Here is a selection of some of our favorite day camps in Marin that have an emphasis on the outdoors and the natural world around us for ages 4 to 18. To find more fantastic summer camps, visit our 2016 Marin Summer Camp Guide.
Audubon Summer Adventures Camp Location: Richardson Bay Audubon Center, Tiburon
Dates: June 6–August 12
Cost: $200–$385 per week
Camp themes include Water Detectives, Mighty Bay, Survivor, Shark Week, and Mud Warriors. They also offer Expedition Camp and On the Fly Camp for children in grades 4–6, where campers deliver a little deeper into the varied habitats of Marin County and visit environments like the bay, ocean, redwood forest, and more. They also offer Youth Leaders for ages 11–17. Monday-Friday, 9 am–2 pm or 9 am–3 pm; extended hours untiil 5 pm are available for an additional cost. Register here.
Registration is now open for Marin's popular Slide Ranch Summer Day Camp, with sessions taking place from June 13 through August 19, 2016 at their spectacular seaside location in Muir Beach. Camps at Slide Ranch give kids a unique opportunity to get hands-on experience on a working farm and also explore the natural world surrounding the ranch.
Slide Ranch offers 10 nature-based camps geared for all different age groups including Ranch Rangers (ages 5 to 13), Slide Explorers (ages 5 to 8), and Junior Farmers (ages 8 to 13). Slide Ranch also offers three Junior Camp Counselor weeks for teens ages 14–18, where they attend and help teach at the camp.
Slide Ranch Day Camp emphasizes hands-on experience and exploration of the farm and the surrounding countryside. Programs encourage campers to touch, taste, smell, hear, observe, and ask questions. Camp at Slide Ranch focuses on teaching respect for animals, plants, the earth, and each other. Slide Ranch campers milk goats, collect eggs from chickens and ducks, card and spin wool, create nature-based crafts, learn to compost, plant seeds, harvest and cook from the ranch's organic garden, and explore the tide pools and trails of the surrounding coastal wild lands.
It's a New Year, so why not resolve to spend more time outdoors as a family? Get some exercise, explore Marin County's many parks and open space preserves, and learn about the natural wonders that can be found all around us. A fantastic and eye-opening way to get out and experience nature in Marin is to take part in one of the naturalist-led family outings offered by Marin County Parks.
The parks department's Nature for Kids outings take place at Marin's many open space areas, and feature a leisurely, kid-paced hike with plenty of opportunities to stop and explore along the way. The hikes are informal and unstructured, and perfect for kids of all ages, although they seem geared for kids ages 3 to 12.
Led by experienced and knowledgeable naturalists like David Herlocker, these hikes allow everyone in the family to get up-close-and-personal with insects, reptiles, spiders, birds, and other flora and fauna that call Marin home. The programs are really fascinating and will make you look at our open spaces in a completely different way.
Muir Beach's Slide Ranch is one of Marin's favorite family destinations for educational programs, camps, and more. But did you know you can visit the ranch's spectacular grounds any time you like? Since Slide Ranch is located within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, it's open to the public every day, with no admission fee.
It's truly an amazing place, with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, hiking trails, tidepools, a farm to explore, and one of the most amazing picnic areas we've ever encountered. It's a great place to visit even if there are no programs going on. Pack up the kids and a picnic and make a day of it!