Expanding the World: Grande Prairie Style

“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.” – Walt Streightiff

There is an excellent article in the December 2011 Parenting for High Potential by Dr. Joan F. Smutny about the pivotal role parents play in expanding the world of young gifted children. She suggests that parents help their children discover meaningful links by coupling their at-home fascinations with forays into their communities and the resources that are there. One of the suggestions she makes is to follow-up an interest in dinosaurs with a field trip to a dinosaur exhibit…as I was reading that I couldn’t help but think there aren’t many better places for a child interested in dinosaurs to live. If you start with a trip to Centre 2000 and then head out to Pipestone Creek you’ve got plenty of ways to feed the imagination! As I continued to read her article about the “gifted programming” that already exists in the community, I thought it might be fun to give it a Grande Prairie twist for those who may not be as familiar with our amazing community.

Exhibits
If you haven’t visited The Art Gallery of Grande Prairie yet, be sure to put it on your list. At the grand opening a week ago, one of the officials commented that it was one of the best galleries in western Canada capable of hosting the kind of exhibitions you might only expect to see in metropolitan centers…here in Grande Prairie. An amazing gallery. The Centre for Creative Arts also has a lovely gallery and hosts regular openings. Last week my daughter and I saw the most amazing (and inspiring) wearable arts show. If you head to the museum in Muskoseepi Park you’ll also find great exhibits there (with lantern tours coming up on October 19 and 20) and the museum and gallery at Centre 2000 never disappoint.

Libraries
The Grande Prairie Public Library is an amazing facility as well. If you go to the website you can find out about upcoming events like author visits and writing contests. We were in the Linda Smith story room for a book launch last week and entertained with an amazing puppet show! There are movie nights, writing clubs, travel clubs….all meeting at the library. (I help organize a songwriters circle that meets there once a month!) When you go into the library, check out all the posters on the wall. There are all kinds of events that are advertised in our community. And I haven’t even mentioned the books…an amazing collection. And if they don’t have the one you’re looking for, the Peace Library System will find it for you. Explore all the genres with your children: poetry, stories, nonfiction, humor, biographies…read together. Have fun with words.

Nature Trips
I agree with Dr. Joan F. Smutny when she says that “the natural world offers the richest and most accessible resource for young gifted children to understand more of the outdoor world.” And you don’t have to leave town to get there. Muskoseepi Park is a brilliant resource in the heart of our city. I can’t tell you how many paths our family has explored over the years. We have created our own names for places: the Dragon Forest, the Moose Forest, the Beaver Forest, the Troll Bridge all in honour of the creatures (or evidence of creatures) that we have discovered (imagined) there. There are beautiful walking trails and bird viewing spots out at Crystal Lake. If you want to make your way out-of-town the list is endless: the great walking trails in O’Brien Park. At Kleskun Hills there are the amazing formations as well as cactus, wild onions and a historical village. Saskatoon Island Park has great playgrounds and walking (or scootering trails) and birdwatching. If you head toward Peace River you can’t beat the great facility at Dunvegan Park: a visitors centre, historical buildings, amazing playground complete with a fort as well as the market garden. I could go on and on with this particular list and would still likely miss some great spots to explore. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of my favorite farms: Red Willow Gardens-Elmworth, Starbright Farms-Baytree, Bridgeview Gardens-Shaftsbury Ferry, Summers Gold-Crooked Creek, Smoky Gardens-Watino…all places you can visit and I have visited with my children so they can taste the freshest food possible. My eldest wants to be a farmer now!

Community Resources
Each season a new issue of Community Connections is published and available at places around the city: the Eastlink Centre, the library etc. In it is a plethora of opportunities for adults and children. Grande Prairie as so much to offer!

The Home Environment
Nothing feeds curiosity like a place where you can explore your passions. Dr. Smutny writes that “having a home that embraces the family’s interests-a makeshift laboratory for the scientist, an art-making place, a quiet nook for reading-enables young children to continually expand their knowledge and skill…by making choices, practicing skills that increase their competence in planning and completing projects, and achieving goals that matter to them.” As I write this blog this morning I can see out into the story making space my children have created in the next room. Sometimes I refer to it as a colossal mess, but if I look carefully there are all kinds of pockets of organization, places full of stories that are told when my children disappear into another world. It’s a place Smutny would say allows them to “discover their interests and nurtures a sense of independence and ownership of their own learning.”

If there are some absolutely “must be on your list” places, please leave them in the comment section!

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