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Suffolk County Vanderilbt Museum

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Meet Stella the Cow at Hallockville Museum Farm's Winter on the Farm program. Photo courtesy of Hallockville Museum Farm

By Tara Mae

Suffolk County families looking to give their children engaging educational opportunities during February break have a number of options from which to choose. Local organizations, such as the Huntington Historical Society, the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, Sweetbriar Nature Center and Hallockville Museum Farm are offering wonderful programs this year.

Huntington Historical Society

The Huntington Historical Society will host a Winter Break Camp for children in grades 2 to 6 on February 22 and February 23 at the David Conklin Farmhouse, 2 High St., Huntington from 9 a.m. to noon. Participants will learn about local history through activities, play and crafts, according to Education Coordinator Ivy Van Wickler.  

“During our February camp, kids will participate in a variety of hands-on history activities, including learning traditional weaving techniques on our shaft looms, as well as fun President’s Day crafts and games. The children will have the opportunity to handle historical artifacts, including toys. We will play games and there will be a different craft each day with the focus on the only two sitting presidents [George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt] who visited Huntington,” said Van Wickler. 

The cost is $35 per child per day, $30 members. Pre-registration is required by Feb. 18. A snack for the children will be included each day. Masks are mandatory and social distancing will be observed. Call 631-427-7045 ext 404 or visit www.huntingtonhistoricalsociety.org.

Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport will offer two winter workshops for children in grades K through 4 on Feb. 21 and 23 from 10 a.m. to noon. 

On Feb. 21 children will tap into their inner artists with a workshop titled Portraits & Mixed Media Collage “Selfie.” Partcipants will tour the historic mansion and examine Vanderbilt family portraits. Using the images as inspiration, they will then employ paint, paper, yarn, clay, and other materials to create individual self-portraits, according to Associate Director of Education Beth Laxer-Limmer. 

Bulb Botany and Winter Blooms on Feb. 23 will also provide interactive engagement for attendees, encouraging them to familiarize themselves with the grounds and exhibits while studying flora and fauna.  

“In the wildlife dioramas, we will discuss what animals eat and how they get their food, then walk around the mansion gardens looking for plants and winter-blooming bulbs and discuss photosynthesis. Children will create a forcing vase out of a repurposed plastic water bottle,” Laxer-Limmer said.

Tickets are $20 per child and all participants must be masked. To register, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org or call 631-854-5579.

Sweetbriar Nature Center

Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown will host Winter Discovery Days from Feb. 21 to Feb. 25 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Designed for children ages 5 to 11, each day of the program incorporates a different natural science theme, with time spent both indoors at the headquarters and barn or outside on the grounds. The activities are curated to encourage awareness and appreciation of the environment. 

Meet Turnip the Screech Owl during Winter Discovery Days at Sweebriar. Photo by Veronic Sayers.

“Kids generally don’t spend a lot of time outside in the winter; we help them discover nature in the winter. For the parents, many of whom may not be off of work, we have the kids during school hours,” said Program Coordinator Veronica Sayers .

Featuring 54 acres of garden, woodland, wetland, and field habitats on the Nissequogue River, Sweetbriar’s winter camp facilitates its mission to offer natural science education and native wildlife rehabilitation.

Ambassador animals, which are wild animals who are generally unable to be rereleased into the wild and include owls, squirrels, hedgehogs, etc., will visit with the campers. “The kids will do at least one craft a day. Sometimes we’ll have them interacting with the animals or playing games, doing scavenger hunts and exploring with their senses,” Sayers added. 

Children may be registered for one, two, three, four, or all five days of Winter Discovery Days. Masks will be worn indoors. The cost is $75 per day or $325 per week for members; $85 per day or $375 per week for nonmembers. For more information, visit www.sweetbriarnc.org or call 631-979-6344.

Hallockville Museum Farm

Hallockville Museum Farm, 6038 Sound Ave., Riverhead a non-profit educational farm, and Farm Hands, a program created to enable hands-on outdoor learning opportunities for young people, have collaborated for Winter on the Farm, a program tailored for children ages 5 to 10 from Feb. 21 to 25 from 9 a.m. to noon. 

Through a tour of the farm and experiential learning, the students will learn about Long Island agriculture as it was hundreds of years ago and as it is today. 

Situated on 23 acres, nineteen historic houses, outbuildings, and barns are preserved on the land; cows, chickens, and other farm animals reside at Hallockville. 

Farm tours will include equipment, outbuildings, and the Hallock Homestead and the Hallock Barn, structures that are more than 250 years old. Camp activities will highlight 19th century farm chores and entertainment, like collecting maple sap for syrup, churning butter, and playing historic instruments and games.

“The age-appropriate activities are based on the children’s abilities and designed to capitalize on the physical and historic resources at the museum farm. Activities will develop an appreciation of farming and local history while creating lasting memories for each camper. Campers will feed the farm animals, collect eggs, and get the farm ready for spring,” said Director and Head Teacher of Farm Hands Jessica de Vera Wells said. 

Proof of negative COVID tests will be required prior to arrival on the first day of camp and temperature checks and screening questions will be administered daily. Masks are required for all indoor activities. Prices is $300/week, $75 per day for drop-in if available, $25 discount for additional sibling for full week only. To register, visit www.hallockville.org or call 631-298-5292.