Oklahoma City family fun can be the getaway you didn't know you needed.
Back-to-school is on every family's mind right now, whether kids just returned to class yesterday, last week or haven't yet jumped into a new grade. Settling into a new routine feels like a collective shift as we, the mothers, push strollers, set alarms and figure out who has to go where when. I see you in the pick-up line, puzzling over your phone and preoccupied with work, dinner and all that we somehow take care of in a day.
The devil's in the details is a phrase that doesn't often come to mind but it's popping up this week, probably because my children are watching '90s episodes of "Powerpuff Girls" on Hulu lately and HIM looks an awful lot like El Chamuco in "Niño Wrestles the World" by Yuyi Morales, the very popular book we must read each night before bed. The details are complicated. I have planned, bought and prepared it all, cleaned closets, washed the car and found the shoes, the one-inch binders and the lunchbox must-haves. Then, my oldest showed up to middle school yesterday only to find his previously-delivered school supplies "missing" (aka taken by someone else) and we started again with an emergency run to the store last night, at about the same time our baby started to run a fever, his stroller broke and the air conditioning stopped working in my car. It's been a really long week full of good intentions. And details.
A lot of families are right here with me, I know. Behind those #firstday photos is a ton of preparation.
The last thing any family wants right now is a road trip because it is too complicated. I have no desire to change up our barely established routine. What I can do in the pickup line, though, is daydream about a time in the not-too-distant future when we can step away from it all.
STEAM is a major emphasis in school right now, science, technology, engineering, art and math being the main draw to new clubs and curricula. There are so many places in our state that show what schools strive to tell and can inspire beyond what kids already know but often with familiar bits and pieces. Not unlike back-to-school season, all of this is really preparation for life and that's what I want my children to recognize, whether it's learning to be on time or how science powers their favorite devices.
When you're ready for a day out, here are four venues where you can bring STEAM to life this school year:
- Oklahoma Aquarium: We spent our last summer weekend here and it's worth the drive to Jenks, about two hours from Oklahoma City. NBC's "The Today Show" and the BBC recently covered this unlikely venue because it houses North America's largest collection of bull sharks. If your kids are constantly quoting facts about marine life, they will love visiting a place that houses so much of it. I would never have expected to find more than 100 exhibits with sea plants and animals in a land-locked state. It's somewhat of a full-body experience, actually, as there are designated areas for kids to touch starfish, they can get amazingly close to stingrays, walk through a surprisingly peaceful shark tunnel and observe ocean animals from all angles by sitting in a yellow submarine. I was thoroughly impressed with the aquarium's variety of animals; it felt like stepping into a research documentary. Pro-tip: watch your speeds in the small towns around Jenks as you come off the highway. We got pulled over in Drumright. Details. Yep, it's been quite a week.
- The Stafford Air & Space Museum: If you read this blog frequently, you might notice we keep mentioning this one. That's because my kids still mention it all the time. We've been exactly once, last summer, so more than a year ago, but they talk about it at least once a week. The fact that space flight artifacts are so tangible is why the experience made such an impression. If I could only recommend one venue in the state for children, I would suggest visiting to inspire dreams of engineering success. Wings Over Weatherford is an event slated for Sept. 15 and it includes flights in historical biplanes and bombers along with kids' activities, food trucks and museum admission. I think we might be up for a daytrip by then.
- Oklahoma City Museum of Art: Make a day of it and tour your city. Last month's Build-A-Bear fiasco left me searching for a way to do something fun with my disappointed children after they realized there was no way we could go later in the day. Where we could go, though, was around town. We made an evening of it: Big Truck Tacos for dinner, Hurts Donuts across the street, which is 24-hours, and then the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Isabelle de Borchgrave's Fashioning Art from Paper exhibition is on display through Sept. 9. The reason my kids love it and wanted to see it more than once is simple: paper is relatable. We have paper at home, origami, notebook, graph, construction. Paper in all its varieties can be art and that's what my kids took away from the experience and I have found art they've created on their own inspired by seeing those beautiful dresses, kaftans and costumes. See the exhibition this month before it's gone.
- National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum: I think giving kids a sense of identity helps them prepare for who they're going to be and the history captured in western art showcases some of that in a way they can understand. Crafts and storytelling go along with everything the museum itself has to offer. The displays are also a good way to talk through technology's rapid progression, with the history of photography in one area and Prosperity Junction, a ghost-town that really feels like stepping back in time. This venue is incredibly family-friendly and a separate children's museum is also on the property for kinesthetic play.
There's a lot happening right now. We're all figuring it out. All the small things worrying us now will soon fade away. What has to remain, though, is the bigger picture: a year of learning, both in and outside of the classroom.
So when the day is frustrating and you're wishing for summer again, daydream of Saturday instead and plan your next trip out. That's what works for me.