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Importance of Multicultural Classrooms


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Back to school means back to the basics, and in North Carolina classrooms today, this means more than just reading, writing and arithmetic. Schools across the state increasingly recognize the importance of a multicultural education, with teachers educating students about our global society. Parent-teacher associations also involve parents in the process, and families are bringing home the lessons of diversity and inclusion.

Carnette Debella, a teacher who heads up the multicultural fair at Pearsontown Elementary in Durham, believes multiculturalism is an important component of a well-rounded education. "A student's knowledge base is increased by learning about different cultures," she says, citing lessons in world geography and history, national flags and languages.

Debella also says current events and international disasters can teach kids about other societies — from government and economics to family structure and housing. Through studying disasters, such as the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti and famines in Africa, children's minds are open to lend a helping hand when others are in need. "If our young people have been taught about different cultures, as adults they will be more willing to help in times of need," Debella says.

Nurturing open minds

Gilmara Johnson, an English-as-a-Second-Language teacher at University Meadows Elementary in Charlotte, believes strongly that multiculturalism is a valuable part of education. "Cultural content helps (students) review their preconceptions about a certain culture and hopefully treat everyone the same," she says.

Johnson says teachers should be aware of the nationalities represented in their classrooms to share knowledge and to prevent misunderstandings that may arise from language barriers or the expression of varying customs. In her classroom, new students are encouraged to present information about their home countries to their classmates. Johnson also frequently incorporates activities about her own home country — Brazil — into her lesson preparations.

"I usually make a compare-and-contrast activity, especially about holidays and monthly events," she explains. "I also have a world map on the wall and the name of each student on an index card with a thread linking to the country where the student comes from."

Technology enables children today to live in a global society, where they can view and communicate instantaneously with others around the world, says Roanne Ornelles, director of diversity at Summit School in Winston-Salem. "However, children cannot truly understand, appreciate and communicate with others unless they have experienced the culture in an authentic way," she says.

Parents understand the importance of multiculturalism, too. Tuyet Huynh, a Raleigh parent of three children, appreciates that her kids were exposed to different cultures at an early age. She says she feels her children, as a result, will grow into open-minded citizens who will more easily work and live within a global society.

Celebrating diversity

As students move beyond high school and college into the workplace, they will enter jobs that require not only critical thinking skills, but also acceptance of others' differences, since corporate offices, retail centers and manufacturing plants are hubs of people from all over the world. To translate academic achievement into a successful career, today's children need to graduate with a different set of skills than their parents.

"Students who learn to accept others of different cultures will have success in the diverse workforce they will find themselves in as adults," Huynh says. "They'll be open-minded, productive team players."

Beyond English, math and science, Ornelles says children must also learn "adaptability, effective communication, problem-solving and collaborative working skills for them to work well with others."

School communities that foster acceptance and inclusion among families are paving the way for the next generation of doers and leaders.

Providence Day School in Charlotte held a Global Day last fall, which was an outreach event from the school's Global Studies Diploma program. More than 600 faculty, staff, students, families and community members attended. Every region of the globe was represented, with exhibits featuring indigenous crafts, regional cuisine and facts addressing issues ranging from poverty and disease to economic development.

"The children really enjoyed learning about the cultures of some of their friends and experiencing some of their traditions," says Lisa Sicard, a Providence Day parent. "They particularly enjoyed watching the Indian dancing, playing backgammon in the Middle Eastern tent and trying out some fencing moves."

Many schools hold similar events. At the Pearsontown Elementary Multicultural Fair in Durham, children share art they create based on their impressions of the countries they study. Members of the community also are invited to participate.

"This year we had Chuck Davis and his famous African Dance Ensemble," Debella explains. "Previously, we had representatives from a local Turkish Cultural Center."

At Cary's Davis Drive Elementary, the PTA supports the cultural arts program, which offers performances that expose students to different cultures and forms of arts, such as the Liang Chinese acrobatic show.

Frank Porter Graham Elementary in Chapel Hill holds family focus nights in an effort to strengthen the school's connections with minority families. During Latino Family Night and African-American Family Night, families are invited to bring foods that reflect their cultures.

"Each event offers brief presentations by the staff and the community regarding opportunities available for families and children," says Susan Pegg, interim principal at the school. "The main goal is to reach out and say, 'We are here for you and your children. Please let us know how we can help.'"

Taking global awareness home

Whatever the format of a school's multicultural efforts, one of the ultimate goals is to encourage further exploration at home and within the community.

Scouting organizations provide excellent opportunities for students to gain a global awareness. Cassie McGowin, a Fort Mill, S.C., mom of twins, says Girl Scouts World Thinking Day promotes girls and their families getting together to learn about traditions in other countries.

Families can watch cultural programs on television, visit museums, and attend local festivals that celebrate cultures from around the globe, like the area Latino festivals this month. (See our Calendar Highlights page for more information.

Ornelles says the best way for parents to teach children to empathize with others is to model acceptance through their own interactions with others. "It is absolutely true that children learn by what respected adults do as much as by what they say," she says.

Lee Rhodes is a freelance writer in Waxhaw.

Diversity Increasing in the Triangle

More school-age children in the Triangle, or their parents, are from another country compared to the state as a whole. Of children ages 6-17, 6 percent in the Triangle are foreign-born compared with 3.5 percent in the state as a whole.

In the Triangle, in that same age group, 19 percent of children had at least one foreign-born parent, as compared with 13.5 percent in North Carolina.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Durham and Raleigh-Cary metro areas for Triangle populations

Wake County Public School System demographics reports show that diversity has increased in the state's largest school system during the last 20-plus years. The percentages of Asian, Hispanic or Latino, and multiracial students have increased significantly while the populations of white and black/African-American students have decreased.

Below are statistics that show growth for various race/ethnicity groups between 1987-1988 and 2009-2010.

American Indian/Alaska Native
1987-1988: 0.2 percent
2009-2010: 0.3 percent

Asian/Pacific Islander
1987-1988: 2.1 percent
2009-2010: 6.1 percent

Black/African-American
1987-1988: 26.7 percent
2009-2010: 25.9 percent

Hispanic/Latino
1987-1988: 0.5 percent
2009-2010: 11.8 percent

Multiracial
1987-1988: 0 percent
2009-2010: 4.8 percent

White
1987-1988: 70.5 percent
2009-2010: 51.1 percent

Source: Wake County Public School System

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August 2016

Enjoy water slides, bounce houses, water gun fights and food. All ages. Service will begin at 9:30 a.m. with festivities immediately following.

Cost: Free

Where:
Driven Church
5511 Avent Ferry Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: Driven Church
Telephone: 919-307-9801
Contact Name: Christopher Murray

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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

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Kids ages 5-11 and their adult companions enjoy a 30-minute tour. Meet at the West Building Information Desk.

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Telephone: 919-839-6262
Website »

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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
122 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quiñones
Website »

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Enjoy the captivating story of a band of underdogs who become unlikely heroes when they stand up to the most powerful men in New York. This rousing tale is about fighting for what’s...

Cost: $35-$80

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

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Take a look at the monsters and beasts that inhabit our dreams and folktales by peering through different lenses to explore the beauty, monstrousness and magic of these creatures as Paperhand...

Cost: Suggested donations are $8 for kids, $15 for adults

Where:
Forest Theatre
123 S. Boundary St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-0522
Website »

More information

Enjoy the captivating story of a band of underdogs who become unlikely heroes when they stand up to the most powerful men in New York. This rousing tale is about fighting for what’s...

Cost: $35-$80

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a look at the monsters and beasts that inhabit our dreams and folktales by peering through different lenses to explore the beauty, monstrousness and magic of these creatures as Paperhand...

Cost: Suggested donations are $8 for kids, $15 for adults

Where:
Forest Theatre
123 S. Boundary St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-0522
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Explore the wonders of the great outdoors and create fun, nature-inspired crafts. Take a lunch, snack and water bottle. Ages 6-11. Meet at the Cypress Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: $20/person

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

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Meet other moms at the Durham Mothers Club open playdate. New and prospective members learn more about the DMC and make new friends. Meeting take place in the nursery; young kids play with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pilgrim United Church of Christ - Nursery
3011 Academy Road
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: Durham Mothers Club
Contact Name: Jennifer Johnson
Website »

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Take the fast track to nature in this hands-on study of ecology. Ages 8-12. Registration required.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Learn how people made flour and cornmeal long ago and try out a variety of ancient-style hand mills. Survey milling history and learn about equipment that has been used around the world to grind...

Cost: $4/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Local community heroes from the Chapel Hill Police Department show that they are also “Reading Role Models” by reading a story or two with kids and answering questions about the work...

Cost: Free

Where:
Chapel Hill Public Library, Programming Room
100 Library Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: Chapel Hill Public Library
Telephone: 919-969-2036
Contact Name: Daniel Siler
Website »

More information

Hunt for clues and investigate the mystery of milling with real historical artifacts inside Wake County's only remaining water-powered gristmill. Ages 7–14. Registration required.

Cost: $4/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Take part in the KaBOOM! Playground Build at Crest Street Park in Durham. Durham Parks and Recreation, Keep Durham Beautiful, the Duke Durham Neighborhood Partnership, the Crest Street Community...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crest Street Park
2503 Crest Street
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Keep Durham Beautiful
Telephone: 919-560-4197 x21269
Contact Name: Monica Ospina
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Take time out to spend with your little one as you crawl, explore and bounce in a safe environment exclusively for children ages 12 mos-3 yrs. Parents play free; admission is $5 per child....

Cost: $5/child

Where:
BounceU of Apex
3419 Apex Peakway
Apex, NC  27502
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Website »

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Tinkergarten is an early childhood education experience in the best classroom you could ask for: Nature! Tinkergarten offers play-based learning for children ages 18 mos-5 yrs, and is all...

Cost: Free

Where:
Apex Community Park
2200 Laura Duncan Road
Apex, NC  27523
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Sponsor: Tinkergarten
Contact Name: Kelci Mukherjee
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Local community heroes from the Chapel Hill Police Department show that they are also “Reading Role Models” by reading a story or two with kids and answering questions about the work...

Cost: Free

Where:
Chapel Hill Public Library, Programming Room
100 Library Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: Chapel Hill Public Library
Telephone: 919-969-2036
Contact Name: Daniel Siler
Website »

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Meet a staff member at the information desk to visit one of the museum galleries. Have a look around and listen to a history-related story. Ages 3 and older with adult.

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

More information

Explore animals in art. Learn about animals in the museum and enjoy activities. Ages 2-5 with caregiver. First come, first served. Sessions take place at 10:15 a.m., 11:15 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.

Cost: $3/member, $6/nonmember

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Telephone: 919-839-6262
Website »

More information

Local community heroes from the Chapel Hill Police Department show that they are also “Reading Role Models” by reading a story or two with kids and answering questions about the work...

Cost: Free

Where:
Chapel Hill Public Library, Programming Room
100 Library Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Chapel Hill Public Library
Telephone: 919-969-2036
Contact Name: Daniel Siler
Website »

More information

Johanna leads preschoolers on a storytime adventure.

Cost: Free

Where:
Flyleaf Books
752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: Flyleaf Books
Telephone: 919-942-7373
Website »

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Assist park staff with invasive species removal in the educational gardens. Learn about harmful invasive species and tackle the task of removing these plants. Take a water bottle and wear clothes...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

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Enjoy "Back to the Future" outdoors. Food trucks available. Take lawn chairs and blankets. Movies shown on the back lawn of the Garner Performing Arts Center; gates open at 7 p.m....

Cost: Free

Where:
Garner Performing Arts Center - Back Lawn
742 W. Garner Rd
Garner, NC  27529
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Sponsor: Garner Revitalization Association
Telephone: 919-773-4402
Contact Name: Mari Howe
Website »

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Enjoy an energetic, musical storytime with Amy Godfrey, who was a Durham County librarian for six years. Babka and challah will be served as...

Cost: Free

Where:
Levin JCC
1937 West Cornwallis Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
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Website »

More information

Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Registration required.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Enjoy a kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified and participatory music show. Children delight in active,...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
"Pump it Up" Briercreek
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

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Local community heroes from the Chapel Hill Police Department show that they are also “Reading Role Models” by reading a story or two with kids and answering questions about the work...

Cost: Free

Where:
Chapel Hill Public Library, Programming Room
100 Library Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Chapel Hill Public Library
Telephone: 919-969-2036
Contact Name: Daniel Siler
Website »

More information

Spread a picnic blanket for garden stories and crafts. Meet at the Bobby G. Wilder Visitor Center. Ages 3-5 with adult. Dress for the weather as this program is held outdoors. Activities are moved...

Cost: Free for members, $5/nonmembers

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Road
Raleigh, NC  27606-1446
View map »


Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Kids spend a night out in nature making memories and new friends in an old-fashioned, camp-style program. Ages 8-12. Registration required.

Cost: $18/resident, $23/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Families gather for an overnight experience complete with a naturalist-led night hike, a light Dutch oven dinner, s'mores for the kids, breakfast, and time for fishing and boating in the...

Cost: $20 adults, $15 youth

Where:
Durant Nature Preserve
8305 Camp Durant Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Telephone: 919-870-2871
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Take a look at the monsters and beasts that inhabit our dreams and folktales by peering through different lenses to explore the beauty, monstrousness and magic of these creatures as Paperhand...

Cost: Suggested donations are $8 for kids, $15 for adults

Where:
Forest Theatre
123 S. Boundary St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-0522
Website »

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Roast marshmallows over the fire and go on a short night hike to see who is out and about. Marshmallows and roasting sticks provided. Take a camp chair and water bottle. All ages. Meet at the...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

More information

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After basic instruction, explore the pond's many features by canoe. Canoes, paddles and life jackets provided. Ages 6 and older with adult. Canoes fit 2 adults and 2 children. The first session...

Cost: $10/boat

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

The Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary by expanding the one-day festival to two days. Enjoy arts and crafts from vendors from across the Southeast, festival foods,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Town of Cary Town Hall Campus
316 N. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Mix, mold and decorate a stepping stone. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Registration required.

Cost: $5/child

Where:
Logan's Garden Shp
707 Semart Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 3-5 and caregiver celebrate  little ruby-throated hummingbirds with stories, craft, play and hands-on exploration in the summer blooming garden. Register online.

Cost: $8/member, $10/nonmember

Where:
North Carolina Botanical Garden
100 Old Mason Farm Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
View map »


Sponsor: North Carolina Botanical Garden
Telephone: 919-537-3770
Contact Name: Elisha Taylor
Website »

More information

Kids ages 5-11 and their adult companions enjoy a 30-minute tour. Meet at the West Building Information Desk.

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Telephone: 919-839-6262
Website »

More information

Fish the old-fashioned way with a cane pole. Equipment, instruction and assistance with identifying fish species provided. Ages 5 and older with adult. Registration required.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Explore moon lore as it relates to agriculture, the autumnal equinox and the harvest season. Head into the park to gaze at the full "Green Corn" or "Grain" moon. Ages 5 and...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Features food trucks, more than 20 local businesses, games for the entire family and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Fuquay-Varina
322 S. Main St.
Fuquay-Varina, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Families enjoy a free craft, workshop, giveaway, photo download and activities.

Cost: Free

Where:
Bass Pro Shop
801 Bass Pro Lane
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

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Little ninjas learning how to kick, punch, yell, jump, and roll, and then put their skills to the test on a Ninja Warrior-inspired obstacle course, followed by board breaking time lead by a master...

Cost: $18/first child, $12/additional children

Where:
Original Strength Institute
101 S. Main St.
Fuquay-Varina, NC  27526
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Telephone: 919-576-5526
Contact Name: Danae Canna
Website »

More information

Take a stroll in the creek to search for frogs, fish and more. Ages 10-13. Registration required.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Learn how you can help conserve this valuable state symbol. Meet Lake Crabtree's adopted turtle, Shel Silverstein, and join park staff on a box turtle survey. Enjoy an opportunity to search for...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Enjoy live music, fresh cooked seafood, barbecue and more. Healthy, locally sourced cuisine from participating chefs, food trucks and restaurants will be served throughout the day featuring fresh...

Cost: $8 advance tickets, $10 at the door. Ages 12 and younger admitted free.

Where:
Raleigh Beer Garden
614 Glenwood Avenue
Raleigh, NC
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Discover the American Tobacco Trail's new GeoArt project and learn the basics of the high-tech treasure hunt. Learn what geocaching is and search for some newly placed geocaches along the...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
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Families gather for an overnight experience complete with a naturalist-led night hike, a light Dutch oven dinner, s'mores for the kids, breakfast, and time for fishing and boating in the...

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Where:
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8305 Camp Durant Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-2871
Website »

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Kids ages 7-17 take part in a hands-on magic workshop. Learn the performance art of theatrical magic from local masters on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. Details available at...

Cost: $10

Where:
The Magic Corner Magic Shop
3684 Capital Blvd.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: Ring #199,The Int'l Brotherhood of Magicians
Telephone: 919-272-6465
Contact Name: Roger Way
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Enjoy an evening walk to learn about owls. Listen for owl calls and coyotes’ howls as we search by ear, as well as sight, for some of the night’s early risers. Turn logs and search for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Johnston Mill Nature Preserve
6001 Turkey Farm Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Triangle Land Conservancy
Telephone: 919-908-0054
Contact Name: Barbara Goldentyer
Website »

More information

Take a look at the monsters and beasts that inhabit our dreams and folktales by peering through different lenses to explore the beauty, monstrousness and magic of these creatures as Paperhand...

Cost: Suggested donations are $8 for kids, $15 for adults

Where:
Forest Theatre
123 S. Boundary St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-0522
Website »

More information

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