Saturday is Kids to Parks Day, and Chapel Hill will be celebrating with events from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Chapel Hill Community Center Park. The event aims to connect both kids and families to the outdoors.
The Chapel Hill celebration includes a "fairy house" contest, in which members of the community present miniature homes made of recycled materials. Two workshops were held earlier this month to build excitement for the competition.
Several tables will be set up around the park for artistic and educational activities, including a station for children to make paper flowers and a place for visitors to make "seed bombs," little clusters of wildflower seeds aimed at growing more foliage for pollinators. A nature-based scavenger hunt will be available for children to participate in as well.
Sammy Bauer, the Community Education Coordinator in the Chapel Hill Stormwater Management division, is hosting a program called “The Magic in Our Streams,” to teach about insects living in and around local water sources.
“There are so many really cool non-human neighbors who live in our streams, and who really rely on safe and non-polluted waters in order to survive,” Bauer said. “A lot of them tell us a lot about how healthy and safe our streams are.”
The activity centers on pollution-sensitive caddis fly larvae, which make shelters out of the things immediately surrounding them. Participating children will do the same, making mock houses out of recycled materials strewn across a table.
Bauer said having events like Kids to Parks Day helps to improve the prospects of Chapel Hill’s local environment for the future.
“Carving out space for kids and their families to be outside and to explore, it helps today, tomorrow and ten years from now,” Bauer said. “If we want people of all ages to make behavior changes that protect our local waterways or our local green spaces, they have to care about it first. They have to feel connected to it first.”
UNC student Sarah Montague’s internship with the Chapel Hill Stormwater Management division only began on Tuesday, but she said she has been working to prepare for and participate in Saturday’s festivities.
“It’ll be setting up and talking to the kids and teaching them about the concept of the craft,” she said.
Kids to Parks Day has been celebrated since 2010, always on the third Saturday in May, and is organized by the National Park Trust. The nonprofit hopes to foster enthusiasm about the outdoors and promote learning and exploration experiences for children.
Wes Tilghman, the Marketing and Sponsorship Manager at Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation, said he thinks the Park Trust’s efforts and programs are aimed at creating a generation willing to take care of parks and green spaces.
“Long-term, it certainly creates a lot of due awareness, and encouragement to get out and discover parks and public lands in our area,” Tilghman said.
While this year marks the 12th anniversary of Kids to Parks Day, Chapel Hill did not hold events in 2020 or 2021 due to the pandemic.
Tilghman said the local community appreciates opportunities and outreach like Kids to Parks Day to promote parks and outdoor experiences.
“It’s just part of what we do as Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation, and promoting environmentalists and good stewardship for parks and open spaces,” he said.
Several other North Carolina communities will also be holding Kids to Parks Day festivities, including Durham and Burlington.
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